University of Oulu

Jyväsjärvi, J., Koivunen, I., & Muotka, T. (2020). Does the buffer width matter: Testing the effectiveness of forest certificates in the protection of headwater stream ecosystems. Forest Ecology and Management, 478, 118532.

Does the buffer width matter : testing the effectiveness of forest certificates in the protection of headwater stream ecosystems

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Author: Jyväsjärvi, Jussi1; Koivunen, Iina1; Muotka, Timo1,2
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, P.O. Box 3000, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland
2Finnish Environment Institute, Freshwater Centre, P.O. Box 413, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2020
Publish Date: 2022-09-04


Forest harvest has multiple impacts on adjoining freshwater ecosystems, particularly headwater streams which typically receive minimal protection against forestry. However, evidence on the effectiveness of differently sized riparian buffers remains limited. Using data from two discrete regions of Finland, we assessed the effectiveness of riparian buffers in providing protection for the riparian and stream environment, benthic invertebrate diversity and species composition, and ecosystem functioning of boreal headwater streams. Our study included streams with both wide (>15 m) and narrow (<15 m) riparian buffers, enabling comparison of the two dominant forest certificates (FSC and PEFC). Compared to unharvested reference streams, nutrient concentrations as well as stream and riparian light intensity and temperature were higher at forestry-impacted sites. The amount of woody debris, cover of aquatic mosses and particulate organic matter standing stock were strongly reduced in streams draining harvested forests, especially in narrowly buffered streams. Changes in light and nutrient conditions induced a transition towards more autotrophic conditions. Organic matter decomposition rates were elevated in forestry-impacted sites only in the southern region. Forest harvest decreased macroinvertebrate diversity and evenness, and altered community composition in the northern region, but much weaker changes were observed in the southern region. Our findings support the retention of riparian buffers, but also confirm that their effectiveness depends on the environmental context and thus remains poorly predictable. Our results also suggest that the widely applied PEFC certification does not provide sufficient protection for stream ecosystems and more stringent protocols are needed to ensure ecological sustainability of forestry.

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Series: Forest ecology and management
ISSN: 0378-1127
ISSN-E: 1872-7042
ISSN-L: 0378-1127
Volume: 478
Article number: 118532
DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2020.118532
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: Our study was funded by the Academy of Finland in the SOurce STream PROtection (SOSTPRO) project organized through the ERA-NET co-funded call Water JPI Waterworks 2015.
Copyright information: © 2020. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http:/