Water Stewardship Information Sources

Citation Richardson, J.S. & R.J. Danehy (2007). A synthesis of the ecology of headwater streams and their riparian zones in temperate forests. Forest Science 53:131-147.
Organization UBC
URL http://www.researchgate.net/profile/R_Danehy/publication/233588028_A_Synthesis_of_the_Ecology_of_Headwater_Streams_and_their_Riparian_Zones_in_Temperate_Forests/links/0fcfd503f1d36cba58000000.pdf
Abstract/Description or Keywords Headwater streams and their riparian areas, i.e., headwater systems, differ from larger streams in a
number of fundamental ways that shape their characteristic biological communities. We focus on three
distinguishing characteristics of headwater systems in temperate, forested landscapes, particularly in the North
American Pacific Northwest, in contrast to larger streams. Small channel size and closed canopy create a
physical template of reduced light inputs, strong local microclimate gradients, higher input rates of organic
matter, and low primary production. The predominance of organic matter inputs as the primary source of
biologically available energy promotes detritus-based communities. Second, headwaters are either fishless or
have smaller fish populations (numerically and/or size-wise), leading to reduced effects of fish predation and
fewer, if any, piscivores along headwaters. A third difference is the dominant disturbance regime associated with
loss of surface flow. Other disturbances include infrequent and large mass failures, e.g., channelized debris
flows, but low flows are a characteristic of headwaters and not larger streams. There have been few designed
comparisons of headwater systems with larger channels. Still, evidence indicates that headwaters form distinct
systems contrasted with larger channels such that management should not treat them simply as big streams writ
small. FOR. SCI. 53(2):131–147.
Keywords: amphibians, fish, invertebrates, periphyton, bryophytes, riparian, streams, disturbance
Information Type article
Regional Watershed Province
Sub-watershed if known
Aquifer #
Project status complete
Contact Name John Richardson
Contact Email [email protected]