Stream water quality following timber harvest in a Coastal Plain swamp forest

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Ensign, S.H., and M.A. Mallin. 2001. Water Research 35:3381–3390.

doi: 10.1016/S0043-1354(01)00060-4


The Goshen Swamp, a fourth order blackwater creek in southeastern North Carolina, was clearcut of 130 acres of riparian and seasonally flooded forest in late May through September 1998. Downstream water quality had been monitored monthly for years before the clearcut, during the clearcut, and for two years following the clearcut. The objective of this paper was to test the hypothesis that clearcutting in the Goshen Swamp watershed negatively impacted downstream water quality. To do so, data from the Goshen Swamp were compared with data collected from a neighboring control creek (Six Runs Creek) of similar size, land use, and hydrologic characteristics. Compared with the control creek, the post-clearcut Goshen Swamp displayed significantly higher suspended solids, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, total Kjeldahl nitrogen and fecal coliform bacteria, and significantly lower dissolved oxygen over a 15 month period. Longer-term deleterious effects included recurrent nuisance algal blooms that had not been present during the years before the clearcut. Although a 10 m uncut buffer zone was left streamside, this was insufficient to prevent the above impacts to stream water quality.