Direct and Indirect Effects of Forest Harvesting on Sediment Yield in Forested Watersheds of the United States

Zachary P. McEachran, Diana L. Karwan, Robert A. Slesak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Managed forests generally produce high water quality, but degradation is possible via sedimentation if proper management is not implemented during forest harvesting. To mitigate harvesting effects on total watershed sediment yield, it is necessary to understand all processes that contribute to these effects. Forest harvesting best management practices (BMPs) focus almost exclusively on overland sediment sources, whereas in-and-near stream sources go unaddressed although they can contribute substantially to sediment yield. Thus, we propose a new framework to classify forest harvesting effects on stream sediment yield according to their direct and indirect processes. Direct effects are those caused by erosion and sediment delivery to surface water from overland sources (e.g., forest roads). Indirect effects are those caused by a shift in hydrologic processes due to tree removal that accounts for increases in subsurface and surface flows to the stream such that alterations in water quality are not predicated upon overland sediment delivery to the stream, but rather in-stream processes. Although the direct/indirect distinction is often implicit in forest hydrology studies, we have formalized it as a conceptual model to help identify primary drivers of sediment yield after forest harvesting in different landscapes. Based on a literature review, we identify drivers of these effects in five regions of the United States, discuss current forest management BMPs, and identify research needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 26 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge funding from the Minnesota Forest Resources Council and Minnesota Agricultural Experimental Station (MIN‐42‐080) to support this work. ZPM acknowledges the Ffolliott Graduate Fellowship in the Department of Forest Resources for support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Water Resources Association


  • best management practices
  • connectivity
  • erosion
  • forest roads
  • forestry
  • geomorphology
  • instream erosion
  • sediment delivery
  • timber harvest
  • water quality
  • watershed management


Dive into the research topics of 'Direct and Indirect Effects of Forest Harvesting on Sediment Yield in Forested Watersheds of the United States'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this