CFE is working with the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) to monitor aluminum in streams in the forest. Aluminum is thought to be released from soils after forest harvesting, but the mechanisms for this are not well understood. When aluminum enters streams, it can be toxic to fish and other species. A better understanding of the relationship between the overall hydrology of a watershed and forest harvesting is needed to help land managers minimize aluminum levels in our surface waters.
Hydrologists Mark Green from CFE and Sheela Johnson from the WMNF developed a research and monitoring program at several sites in the forest. Graduate student Chris Nealen collected and analyzed water samples from streams in four recently harvested and four reference, or minimally harvested, watersheds. Using these data, Chris was able to show that the hydrology of the two types of watersheds is the primary control on the release of aluminum, and forest harvest is a secondary contributor.
Building on these findings, CFE will continue work on this topic with the WMNF in 2012-2014. Further monitoring will occur and also additional research on the relationships between soil chemistry, hydrology, and forest management. CFE’s post doc Denise Burchsted, graduate student Bradley Bowers, and Scott Bailey (USDA Northern Research Station and PSU adjunct faculty) are contributing to the project.