USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station
Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
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Adaptive management handbook and tools for vegetation management and estimation of pollutant loading from forested catchments

Proposal [pdf]

Lead Researchers:

Michael Hogan, Integrated Environmental Restoration Services, Inc.
Mark Grismer, Vadose Zone Hydrology & University of California, Davis


Efforts to reduce catastrophic fire potential in the Lake Tahoe Basin have resulted in a significant disparity between those efforts and efforts to minimize fine sediment particle (FSP, <16 μm) loading to Lake Tahoe under the Lake Tahoe Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Logging and other vegetation management practices have potential to increase erosion and associated FSP loading to surface waters. Operations and regulatory implementation are constrained by a lack of local field-derived data and the ability to cost-effectively monitor treatments. Thus, management decisions are often made intuitively, through 'expert opinion,' multiple interpretations of available research data, 'common sense,' or model output. This research will directly measure impacts of various vegetation management practices on soil function, hydrology and FSP transport, develop a set of cost-effective mitigation measures where impacts exist, and produce an adaptive management-based process and handbook for managers that will translate this data and other relevant studies into Tahoe Basin-specific planning, implementation and assessment tools. In addition, we will provide the field-measured data necessary to reduce uncertainty and add credibility to hillslope- and catchment-scale modeling efforts (Water Erosion Prediction Project [WEPP] and others). A field-tested, scientifically-defensible handbook will integrate this information and data, thus supporting land managers in making more informed treatment decisions. The tools developed will also help managers implement appropriate mitigation measures as needed, and begin to develop and standardize the condition assessment methods necessary to account for changes in pollutant loading associated with vegetation management actions in forested catchments, which comprise 85% of the land in the Tahoe Basin. Such technical guidance is critical to support implementation of the Lake Tahoe TMDL.

Relation to Other Research Including SNPLMA Science Projects

This research will leverage and build on many years of data collection in the Tahoe Basin, including an extensive and ever-growing database of more than 1000 rainfall simulation plot studies conducted in the Tahoe area, and will build on the data and methods used to estimate load reductions for forested upland watersheds as part of the Phase II of the Lake Tahoe TMDL. This research will also develop a framework and process for translating the results of many recent, ongoing and upcoming research projects on the impacts of specific vegetation management practices, including burn piles and mechanical treatments, into useful tools for managers. This project builds upon previously-funded SNPLMA projects, including "Effects of pile burning in the Tahoe basin on soil and water quality", "Balancing fuel reduction, soil exposure, and erosion potential," "Predicting nutrient and sediment loading from prescribed fire using WEPP," and "Assessing the sources and transport of fine sediment in response to management practices in the Tahoe basin using the WEPP Model," as well as with water quality-related projects in Round 12 of SNPLMA. This research will develop the data and assessment methods to support development of a catchment-scale load estimation tool for forested uplands, thereby expanding the utility of the TMDL Accounting and Tracking Tool and supporting the development of the TMDL Management System.

Expected date of final products:

January 2015

Last Modified: Nov 12, 2014 03:38:18 PM