Sediment Delivery FROM Reopened Forest Roads AT Stream Crossings IN the Virginia Piedmont Physiographic Region, USA
Brown, Kristopher Ryan
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Efforts to control surface runoff and erosion from forest roads at stream crossings are critical for the protection of aquatic ecosystems in forests. In this research, annual and event-based sediment delivery rates were estimated for reopened legacy roads at forest stream crossings in the Virginia Piedmont physiographic region, USA. Sediment delivery rates were compared among stream crossing approaches with diverse intensities of best management practice (BMP) implementations for surface cover and water control. Model predictions from the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) were compared to field observations of surface runoff and sediment delivery to evaluate model performance. Annual sediment delivery rates from reopened (bare) legacy road approaches to stream crossings were 7.5 times higher than those of completely graveled approaches. Sediment delivery rates ranged from 34 to 287 Mg ha-1 year-1 for the bare approaches and from 10 to 16 Mg ha-1 year-1 for the graveled approaches. Event-based surface runoff and associated total suspended solids (TSS) concentrations were compared among a succession of gravel surfacing treatments that represented increasing intensities of BMP implementations on reopened approaches. The three treatments were No Gravel (10-19% cover), Low Gravel (34-60% cover), and High Gravel (50-99% cover). Median TSS concentration of surface runoff for the No Gravel treatment (2.84 g L-1) was greater than Low Gravel (1.10 g L-1) and High Gravel (0.82 g L-1) by factors of 2.6 and 3.5, respectively. WEPP predictions of event-based sediment yield show clear differences among the different road surface treatments, but prediction intervals were wide, reflecting substantial prediction uncertainty. These findings show that reopened legacy roads and associated stream crossing approaches can deliver significant quantities of sediment if roads are not adequately closed or maintained and that corrective best management practices (BMPs), such as gravel and appropriate spacing of water control structures, can reduce sediment delivery to streams. Watershed management decisions that hinge upon WEPP predictions of sediment yield from forest roads must necessarily take into account a wide range of potential erosion rates for specific management scenarios.
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