Forest Cover Plays a More Critical Role in Regulating Water Resources in the Piedmont than in the Mountains and Coastal Plain
The Carolinas have a long history of forest hydrology research, but little is known about the impacts of forest harvesting on streamflow in the rapidly urbanizing Piedmont region of North and South Carolina. Forest Service scientists at the agency’s Southern Research Station Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center developed a six-year study to address this spatial knowledge gap through a series of watershed studies. The researchers found that forest vegetation plays a more significant role in affecting streamflow in the Piedmont than in the mountains and coastal plain due to the region's topography and climatic conditions.
The amount of water in streams studied tripled following forest clearing, suggesting that when converted from forests to urban lands, watersheds in the Piedmont might be more prone to high flows or flooding than the mountains and coastal plain. Streamflow and sediment increased with tree removal, although habitat for fish and other aquatic species remained healthy throughout the study period. The research results provide a better understanding of how Piedmont watersheds store and release water and nutrients and how to apply the most appropriate timber harvest management practices to protect fish and water resources across the mountains, Piedmont, and coastal plain. Planning for future urban growth in the Piedmont should consider the unique impacts to streamflow in response to land cover change in the region.
|Effects of timber harvest on water quantity and quality in small watersheds in the Piedmont of North Carolina||(publication)|
Forest Service Partners