2017-10-07 / Front Page

Logging impact on streams studied


Biology professor Dr. Denise Piechnik analyzes baseline samples taken as part of a three-year study of timber harvesting impact on headwater streams in the region. Biology professor Dr. Denise Piechnik analyzes baseline samples taken as part of a three-year study of timber harvesting impact on headwater streams in the region. A local professor is heading up a study on the impact effect of timbering on Pennsylvania’s headwater streams.

Dr. Denise Piechnik, assistant professor of biology at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, was awarded a $28,000 federal grant to train students in sampling water sources, inventorying macro-invertebrates and testing water chemistry.

Baseline data was recently collected from streams that have not had timber cuts in the nearby forest.

For the next three years, students will gather data on plots of forest after low-, medium- and high-intensity timber harvests.

Eventually, Piechnik will involve students in preparing a report for forest managers, allowing them to gain skills in statistical analysis and technical writing.

She’s building on research in New York State’s Catskill Mountains, which indicated that forests with the highest-intensity timber reduction might be more at risk for negative effects. Those effects could include leaching of aluminum and calcium into stream water.

Students will gather, count and assess aquatic insects such as mayflies, dragonflies and stoneflies that may be more or less sensitive to chemicals that could leach into streams due to erosion after timbering.

Students will also measure streams for acidity or basicity, conductivity and their ability to neutralize alkalinity.

The Pitt-Bradford project involves at least four watersheds, several levels of timber harvesting and resampling procedures that will ensure the results are accurate and reliable.

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