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Individual Highlight

Scientists Determine Ideal Buffer Width to Sustain Aquatic and Riparian Resources Along Headwater Streams

Photo of A headwater stream in western Oregon. USDA Forest ServiceA headwater stream in western Oregon. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : How wide does a riparian buffer need to be to maintain aquatic and riparian habitat in and along forested headwater streams when upland forest thinning occurs? This is a controversial topic in the Pacific Northwest where riparian buffers in western Oregon and Washington vary tremendously with land ownership and stream size.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Olson, Deanna ("Dede") H.  
Research Location : Oregon
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 792


Long-term experiments as part of the Density Management and Riparian Buffer Study of western Oregon investigate the interaction between upland forest thinning and various riparian buffer widths, ranging from 20 to 480 feet, on aquatic and riparian resources in headwater systems. Several lines of evidence indicate that 50-foot minimum buffers of variable width effectively retain sensitive salamander species, accelerate growth of streamside riparian trees, and provide down wood for instream habitat, as well as protect other resource conditions and processes along headwater streams in western Oregon. These findings have bearing on management decisions relative to streamside riparian reserve widths along headwater streams in the Oregon Coast Range and western Cascades.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Oregon State University
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • USDI Bureau of Land Management