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Large Woody Debris and Salmonid Habitat in the Anchor River Basin, Alaska, Following an Extensive Spruce Beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) Outbreak

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A widespread and intense spruce beetle outbreak during the 1990s has killed most of the mature white spruce (Picea glauca) trees across many watersheds in south-central Alaska. To investigate the potential habitat impacts in a salmon stream, we characterized the current abundance and species composition of large woody debris (LWD), examined the linkages between LWD and salmonid habitat, and estimated changes in LWD abundance and associated pool habitat over time. LWD abundance was relatively low (97 pieces/km overall) and varied widely according to riparian vegetation typology, ranging from 15 pieces/km at sites with non-forested riparian zones to 170 pieces/km at sites adjacent to cottonwood forest. LWD provided significant fish cover in pools, especially in cottonwood forest stream reaches. LWD-formed pools were relatively rare (15% of total), but LWD abundance explained much of the variation in pool frequency (r2 = 0.86 in spruce forest reaches) and in the proportion of pool habitats (r2 = 0.85 in cottonwood forest reaches). We project the spruce beetle outbreak to result in a substantial net increase in LWD abundance over a 50-year span, peaking with 243% and 179% increases in LWD abundance for spruce forest and cottonwood forest stream reaches, respectively, in the year 2025. Concurrent with the peak in LWD abundance, our estimates show pool frequency in spruce forest reaches to reach 207% of current levels and the proportion of pools in cottonwood forest reaches to reach 167% of current levels, changes that correspond with substantially increased potential habitat for juvenile salmonids.
Rinella, Daniel J. , Booz, Michael , Bogan, Daniel L. , Boggs, Keith , Sturdy, Michelle , Rinella, Matthew J.
Includes references
Northwest science: official publication of the Northwest Scientific Association 2009 Feb., v. 83, issue 1
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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