University of Oulu

Mykrä, H., Annala, M., Hilli, A., Hotanen, J.-P., Hokajärvi, R., Jokikokko, P., Karttunen, K., Kesälä, M., Kuoppala, M., Leinonen, A., Marttila, H., Meriö, L.-J., Piirainen, S., Porvari, P., Salmivaara, A., & Vaso, A. (2023). GIS-based planning of buffer zones for protection of boreal streams and their riparian forests. Forest Ecology and Management, 528, 120639.

GIS-based planning of buffer zones for protection of boreal streams and their riparian forests

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Author: Mykrä, Heikki1; Annala, Mari1; Hilli, Anu2;
Organizations: 1Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Freshwater Centre, P.O. Box 413, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland
2Finnish Forest Centre, Rautionkatu 2 C, FI-90400 Oulu, Finland
3Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Natural Resources, Yliopistonkatu 6 B, FI-80100 Joensuu, Finland
4Metsähallitus, P.O. Box 94, FI-01301 Vantaa, Finland
5Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Freshwater Centre, Latokartanonkaari 11, FI-00790 Helsinki, Finland
6Finnish Forest Centre, Kauppakatu 25 A, FI-87100 Kajaani, Finland
7Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering Research Unit, P.O. Box 4300, FI-90014 University of Oulu, Finland
8Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Latokartanonkaari 9, FI-00790 Helsinki, Finland
9Finnish Forest Centre, Kauppakatu 19 B, FI-40100 Jyväskylä, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-03-31


Forested buffer zones with varying width have been suggested as the most promising approach for protecting boreal riparian biodiversity, reducing erosion, and minimizing nutrient leaching from managed forestry areas. Yet, less optimal fixed-width approach is still largely used, likely because of its simple design and implementation. We examined the efficiency of varying-width buffer zones based on depth-to-water (DTW) index in protecting stream riparian plant communities. We further compared the economic costs of DTW-based buffer to commonly used 5, 10 and 15 m fixed-width buffers. We also included an additional buffer based on a combination of DTW and erosion risk (Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation, RUSLE) into these comparisons to see the extent and cost of a buffer that should maximize the protection of the linked aquatic environment. Plant species richness increased with increasing soil moisture and species preferring moist conditions, nutrient-rich soils and high pH were clearly more abundant adjacent to stream in areas with high predicted soil moisture than in dry areas. Differences in species richness were paralleled by differences in community composition and higher beta diversity of plant communities in wet than in dry riparian areas. There were also several indicator species typical for moist and nutrient-rich soils for wet riparian areas. Riparian buffer zones based on DTW were on average larger than 15 m wide fixed-width buffers. However, the cost for DTW-based buffer was lower than for fixed-width buffer zones when the cost was normalized by area. Simulated selective cutting decreased the costs, but cutting possibilities were variable among streams and depended on the characteristics of forest stands. Our results thus suggest a high potential of DTW in predicting wet areas and variable-width buffer zones based on these areas in the protection of riparian biodiversity and stream ecosystems.

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Series: Forest ecology and management
ISSN: 0378-1127
ISSN-E: 1872-7042
ISSN-L: 0378-1127
Volume: 528
Article number: 120639
DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2022.120639
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 4112 Forestry
Funding: We are grateful to Metsähallitus for providing data from stream habitat inventories in our study area. This study was funded by the GIS-based planning of protection of riparian forests of headwater streams project (A75834) through EU’s Northern Finland Regional Development Fund.
Copyright information: © 2022 The Author(s). This is an open access article under the CC BY license (