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Erosion and sediment delivery following removal of forest roads

January 1, 2001

Erosion control treatments were applied to abandoned logging roads in California, with the goal of reducing road-related sediment input to streams and restoring natural hydrologic patterns on the landscape. Treatment of stream crossings involved excavating culverts and associated road fill and reshaping streambanks. A variety of techniques were applied to road benches, which included decompacting the road surface, placing unstable road fill in more stable locations, and re-establishing natural surface drainage patterns. Following treatment and a 12-year recurrence-interval storm, some road reaches and excavated stream crossings showed evidence of mass movement failures, gullying, bank erosion and channel incision. Post-treatment erosion from excavated stream crossings was related to two variables: a surrogate for stream power (drainage area × channel gradient) and the volume of fill excavated from the channel. Post-treatment erosion on road reaches was related to four explanatory variables: method of treatment, hillslope position (upper, mid-slope or lower), date of treatment, and an interaction term (hillslope position × method of treatment). Sediment delivery from treated roads in upper, middle and lower hillslope positions was 10, 135 and 550 m3 of sediment per kilometre of treated roads, respectively. In contrast, inventories of almost 500 km of forest roads in adjacent catchments indicate that untreated roads produced 1500 to 4700 m3 of sediment per kilometre of road length. Erosion from 300 km of treated roads contributed less than 2 per cent of the total sediment load of Redwood Creek during the period 1978 to 1998. Although road removal treatments do not completely eliminate erosion associated with forest roads, they do substantially reduce sediment yields from abandoned logging roads.

Publication Year 2001
Title Erosion and sediment delivery following removal of forest roads
DOI 10.1002/1096-9837(200102)26:2<175::AID-ESP174>3.0.CO;2-N
Authors Mary Ann Madej
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
Index ID 1008202
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center