Hydrologic data have been collected since 1932 in central New York State to determine the effect of reforestation on streamflow. Data are available for three small partly reforested areas and for one nonreforested control area. From 35 to 58 percent of the 3 areas were reforested, mostly with species of pine and spruce. The trees were allowed to grow without thinning or cutting, and by 1958 these reforested areas had developed into dense coniferous woodlots.
Intensive statistical analyses of the data from the four study areas were made in 1958. Analyses were made for three hydrologic periods: the dormant season represented by the 6-month period ending April 30, the growing season represented by the 6-month period ending October 31, and the year represented by the 12-month period ending April 30. Analyses of the hydrologic data using multiple correlation with time as a variable and analyses of covariance between early and late periods of record indicated that several significant changes had occurred in the streamflow from the partly reforested study areas. Based on correlation with precipitation, total runoff for the dormant season from the 3 study areas was reduced by annual rates of 0.17 to 0.29 inches per year. Based on correlations with streamflow from a control area, total runoff from the partly reforested Shackham Brook area was reduced by average rates of 0.14 inches per growing season, 0.23 inches per dormant season, and 0.36 inches per hydrologic year. Peak discharges on Shackham Brook during the dormant season were reduced by 1958 by an average of 41 percent for the season, with reductions ranging from an average of 66 percent for November to an average of 16 percent for April. No significant changes were found in the peak discharges for the growing season, rates of base-flow recession, volumes of direct runoff, or annual low flows of streams in the three partly reforested areas.
The significant reductions in total runoff are attributed to increases in interception and transpiration in the reforested areas. The reductions in peak discharges during the dormant period are attributed largely to increased interception and sublimation of snowfall, and a gradual desynchronization of snowmelt runoff from the wooded and open areas of partly reforested watersheds. The changes in streamflow occurred gradually over the years; it could not be determined from the data whether changes in streamflow were still occurring in 1958, or whether they had reached a maximum.
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USGS Numbered Series
Effect of reforestation on streamflow in central New York