Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 7868
Title: Changing forests--changing streams:  riparian forest stand development and ecosystem function in temperate headwaters
Author: Dana R. Warren, Matthew Kaylor, William Keeton, Peter M. Kiffney, Heather Bechtold, John Magee
Publication Year: 2016
Journal: Ecosphere
Volume: 7
Issue: 8
Pages: e01435
Keywords: forests,succession,light,streams,ecosystem processes

Light availability influences temperature, primary production, nutrient dynamics, and secondary production in aquatic ecosystems.  In forested freshwater ecosystems, shading by streamside (riparian) vegetation is a dominant control on light flux and represents an important interaction at the aquaticterrestrial interface.  Changes in forest structure over time, particularly tree mortality processes that gradually increase light penetration through maturing forest canopies, are likely to influence stream light fluxes and associated ecosystem functions.  We provide a set of conceptual models describing how stream light dynamics change with the development of complex canopy structure and how changes in light availability are likely to affect stream ecosystem processes.  Shortly after a stand-replacing event, light flux to the stream is high, but light fluxes decline as canopies reestablish and close.  Tree density, the degree of understory growth, patterns of tree mortality, and small-scale disturbances interact as drivers of multiple pathways of forest structural development.  Changes in canopy structure will, in turn, influence stream light, which is expected to impact primary production and stream nutrient dynamics as well as the amount of autochthonous carbon supporting aquatic food webs.  Ultimately, these conceptual models stress the importance of recovery from historic forest disturbances as well as future forest change as important factors influencing the long-term trajectories of ecosystem processes in headwaters.

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Theme: Habitats to Support Sustainable Fisheries and Recovered Populations
Foci: Characterize relationships between habitat and ecosystem processes, climate variation, and the viability of organisms.
Characterize the interaction of human use and habitat distribution, quantity and quality.