A holistic monitoring approach for water quality BMP and Forest Watershed Risk assessment

Robert A. Slesak, Jennifer M Corcoran, Richard Rossman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The use of water quality BMPs during forest harvesting reduces potential impacts to water quality, and previous monitoring work has documented high levels of BMP use. However, the utility of past monitoring efforts for water management is limited, because monitoring estimates are provided at large scales and lacking situational context conducive to local management. Here we present a framework for holistic monitoring at the watershed scale that incorporates estimates of BMP implementation with forest disturbance metrics and watershed characteristics to qualitatively evaluate the risk of forestry activities impacting water quality in a given watershed. Using three case study watersheds in Minnesota, USA, we demonstrate that forest disturbance patterns and BMP implementation are variable across watersheds, and the implications of these differences for water quality are dependent on the physical characteristics of a watershed such as stream density, soil properties, and topography. An implicit assumption in our assessment is that risks of water quality degradation are greatest with lower levels of BMP implementation and where forest disturbance is concentrated in time and space. The monitoring approach is being used in Minnesota to guide adaptive management at the watershed scale to preemptively address water quality risks associated with forestry activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-290
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Forestry
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments:Funding for this work was provided by the MN Forest Resources Council, MN Department of Natural Resources, and Clean Water Fund. We gratefully acknowledge the past work of Mike Phillips and Rick Dahlman to establish and maintain the guideline monitoring program. Special thanks to MN DNR – Resource Assessment for assistance with image change detection analysis, and to Steigerwaldt Land Services for conducting field measurements of BMP implementation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Society of American Foresters.


  • Adaptive management
  • Cumulative effects
  • Forestry water quality
  • Watershed disturbance
  • Watershed planning


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