Long-term on-site and off-site effects of logging and erosion in the Redwood Creek basin, northern California

Technical Bulletin
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For nearly 15 years, the Redwood Creek Watershed in north coastal California has been the focus of both U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and National Park Service (NPS) studies designed to document and quantify the nature of erosion, sedimentation and sediment transport processes active in the basin. While none of these studies were specifically designed to assess possible cumulative effects resulting from land use, we can demonstrate, by synthesizing a number of study findings throughout the watershed, that some land use practices do result in long-term and persistent changes to hillslopes and stream channels.

For this discussion, "Cumulative Effects" are viewed as multiple, persistent impacts which are separated in either space or time from the original land use disturbance. Although each incremental disturbance may have an insignificant effect when viewed alone, the impacts may become cumulatively significant when seen in aggregate or when multiple erosion sources are triggered simultaneously by a large storm. For example, an undersized culvert which becomes plugged of whose capacity is exceeded by storm runoff can cause erosion at the site where it is installed as all or part of the fill crossing is washed out. In addition, streamflow can be diverted from the channel and cause considerable erosion in downslope areas where gullies will form, and in far removed fish-bearing streams where the sediment is finally deposited.

In addition to being spatially displaced from its source, the effect may also be delayed in time. The undersized culvert may not plug or its capacity be exceeded for many years, and the resultant erosion and sedimentation may not occur for decades after the original disturbance. An entire road network, which is not being permanently maintained or whose culverts have been underdesigned, may not reveal significant erosional impacts from road construction until a major storm cause widespread culvert failure, stream crossing erosion and stream diversions. The effects of land use are then additive, occur essentially instantaneously over large areas, and are displaced both spatially and temporally from their source and time of initiation.

The objective of this brief report is to describe how specific land use practices can cause multiple on-site and off-site geomorphic impacts which may become obvious only years following the land use disturbance. Additionally, we will briefly outline how a large percentage of these persistent effects can be avoided entirely by minor changes in road construction techniques.

Study Area

Publication type Book
Publication Subtype Conference publication
Title Long-term on-site and off-site effects of logging and erosion in the Redwood Creek basin, northern California
Series title Technical Bulletin
Year Published 1986
Language English
Publisher National Council of the Paper Industry for Air and Stream Improvement
Publisher location New York, N.Y.
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description p. 38-66
Larger Work Title American Geophysical Union Meeting on Cumulative Effects
Conference Title American Geophysical Union Meeting on Cumulative Effects
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Northern California
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