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Resource managers may decide to thin riparian forests to increase the amount of light that streams receive and enhance aquatic productivity. However, increases in aquatic productivity depend on complex food web dynamics that link forests and streams.

To evaluate how forest thinning influences stream food webs, researchers from Oregon State University, USGS, and USDA Forest Service tracked the responses of periphyton, macroinvertebrates, amphibians, and fish in three watersheds in the second-growth coast redwood forests of northern California. Riparian thinning increased the light to the stream and resulted in mixed responses. Overall, the results suggested that riparian thinning does not necessarily enhance aquatic productivity, but it also did not result in any adverse effects. The lack of strong food web responses to thinning observed during this short-term study could suggest that a longer monitoring period is necessary to observe changes, or that there are other ecological factors driving food web dynamics in these small, forested watersheds.

Roon, D.A., Dunham, J.B., Bellmore, J.R., Olson, D.H., and Harvey, B.C., 2022, Influence of riparian thinning on trophic pathways supporting stream food webs in forested watersheds: Ecosphere, v. 13, no. 9, e4219.

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