Influences of logging history and riparian forest characteristics on macroinvertebrates and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in headwater streams (New Hampshire, U.S.A.)

Keith H. Nislow, Winsor H. Lowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


1. Logging can strongly affect stream macroinvertebrate communities, but the direction and magnitude of these effects and their implications for trout abundance are frequently region-specific and difficult to predict. 2. In first-order streams in northern New England (U.S.A.) representing a chronosequence of logging history (<2 to >80 years since logging), we measured riparian forest conditions, stream macroinvertebrate community characteristics and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) abundance. Principal component analysis was used to collapse forest data into two independent variables representing variation in logging history, riparian forest structure and canopy cover. We used these data to test whether logging history and associated forest conditions were significant predictors of macroinvertebrate abundance and functional feeding group composition, and whether brook trout abundance was related to logging-associated variation in invertebrate communities. 3. Catchments with high PC1 scores (recently logged, high-density stands with low mean tree diameter) and low PC2 scores (low canopy cover) had significantly higher total macroinvertebrate abundance, particularly with respect to chironomid larvae (low PC2 scores) and invertebrates in the grazer functional feeding group (high PC1 scores). In contrast, proportional representation of macroinvertebrates in the shredder functional feeding group increased with time since logging and canopy cover (high PC2 scores). Brook trout density and biomass was significantly greater in young, recently logged stands (high PC1 scores) and was positively related to overall macroinvertebrate abundance. In addition, three variables - trout density, invertebrate abundance and shredder abundance - successfully discriminated between streams that were less-impacted versus more-impacted by forestry. 4. These results indicate that timber harvest in northern New England headwater streams may shift shredder-dominated macroinvertebrate communities supporting low trout abundance to a grazer/chironomid-dominated macroinvertebrate community supporting higher trout abundance. However, while local effects on brook trout abundance may be positive, these benefits may be outweighed by negative effects of brook trout on co-occurring species, as well as impairment of habitat quality downstream. Research testing the generality of these patterns will improve understanding of how aquatic ecosystems respond to anthropogenic and natural trajectories of forest change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-397
Number of pages10
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Brook trout
  • Disturbance
  • Food webs
  • Forest succession
  • Salvelinus fontinalis
  • Small watersheds
  • Timber harvest


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