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Goal: Apply Knowledge Globally Water Samples Provide Further Guidance on How Best to Protect Water Quality at Stream Crossings in Piedmont Forests

Director’s Choice
Construction vehicle lifting a steel bridgement over a skid trail crossing

Researchers measured sediment in water samples upstream and downstream of stream crossing sites, such as this steel bridgemat at a skid trail crossing, before, during, and after harvesting operations. Photo by Neil Williams, USDA Forest Service.


Sedimentation inputs to streams are some of the biggest current and future challenges for land and water managers. Preventing stream sediment generated from silvicultural activities requires an understanding of local inputs. A recent study provides sediment data that resource managers can incorporate into their decision support system to help estimate sediment concentrations and exports from stream crossings, haul roads, and skid trails in Piedmont forests and to further refine state Best Management Practice guidelines.


Previous studies have examined the effectiveness of Best Management Practices (BMPs) in protecting forest streams across North Carolina’s mountains and coastal plain, but data from the region in between—the Piedmont—have been lacking. In partnership with North Carolina Forest Service, scientists from the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center led a study to quantify sediment loads at Piedmont forest harvesting operations with a variety of soil types, watershed sizes, and road and trail slopes approaching stream crossings. Researchers measured sediment in 808 water samples upstream and downstream of stream crossing sites before, during, and after harvesting operations. The researchers found sediment concentration ranged from 56 milligrams per liter to 127 milligrams per liter across sites. Although these concentrations are low and will not harm aquatic species, the results help to define the range of stream sediment variability at road and skid trail crossings and are needed to adequately address water quality and sediment export concerns and to help further refine statewide BMP guidelines. Results also assure forest managers that BMPs applied at stream crossings are part of sustainable operations that can provide forest products for people now and in the future while simultaneously protecting forest ecosystems.

Principal Investigator
Johnny Boggs, Biological Scientist
4854 - Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center
Strategic Program Area
Water, Air, and Soil
The effects of stream crossings on total suspended sediment in North Carolina Piedmont forests
CompassLive Story
Stream Crossings and Water Quality
External Partners
North Carolina Forest Service
Duke University
North Carolina State University
General Electric
Orange Water and Sewer Authority
Montgomery County, North Carolina