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Sweeney & Newbold, 2014

Paper/Book

Streamside Forest Buffer Width Needed to Protect Stream Water Quality, Habitat, and Organisms: A Literature Review

Sweeney, B. W., and Newbold, J. D. (2014)
Journal of the American Water Resources Association 50 (3):560–584  

Abstract

This literature review addresses how wide a streamside forest buffer needs to be to protect water quality, habitat, and biota for small streams (≤~100 km2 or ~5th order watershed) with a focus on eight functions:

  1. subsurface nitrate removal varied inversely with subsurface water flux and for sites with water flux >50 l/m/day (~40% avg base flow to Chesapeake Bay) median removal efficiency was 55% (26-64%) for buffers <40 m wide and 89% (27-99%) for buffers >40 m wide;
  2. sediment trapping was ~65 and ~85% for a 10- and 30-m buffer, respectively, based on streamside field or experimentally loaded sites;
  3. stream channel width was significantly wider when bordered by ~25-m buffer (relative to no forest) with no additional widening for buffers ≥25 m;
  4. channel meandering and bank erosion were lower in forest but more studies are needed to determine the effect of buffer width;
  5. temperature remained within 2°C of levels in a fully forested watershed with a buffer ≥20 m but full protection against thermal change requires buffers ≥30 m;
  6. large woody debris (LWD) has been poorly studied but we infer a buffer width equal to the height of mature streamside trees (~30 m) can provide natural input levels;
  7. macroinvertebrate and fish communities, and their instream habitat, remain near a natural or semi-natural state when buffered by ≥30 m of forest.

Overall, buffers ≥30 m wide are needed to protect the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of small streams.

Citation

Sweeney, B. W., and Newbold, J. D. (2014): Streamside Forest Buffer Width Needed to Protect Stream Water Quality, Habitat, and Organisms: A Literature Review. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 50 (3):560–584. DOI: 10.1111/jawr.12203