A biology professor began a project this summer to study the effect of timbering on streams in the Allegheny National Forest.
Dr. Denise Piechnik, assistant professor of biology, and Miranda Piccioli, a biology major from Bradford, collected baseline data from streams that have not had timber cuts in the nearby forest.
Piechnik received a $28,000 Forest Service Share Cost Partnership Grant to train students to sample, sort and identify macroinvertebrates in the streams. Students will also improve their skills in testing water chemistry.
Piechnik and U.S. Forest Service hydrologist Chuck Keeports will continue the study for three years, allowing future students to hone their lab skills while continuing the research. Each year, students will gather data on plots of forest after low, medium and high intensity timber harvests. The percentage of forest harvested determines the intensity of the timbering.
At the end of the project, Piechnik will involve students in preparing a report for the Forest Service, allowing them to gain skills in statistical analysis and technical writing. Piechnik is building on research in New York State's Catskill Mountains, which indicated that forests with the highest intensity timber reduction might be more at risk for negative effects. Those effects could include leaching of aluminum and calcium into stream water.
Each year students will gather, count and assess the health of aquatic insects such as mayflies, dragonflies and stoneflies that may be more or less sensitive to chemicals that might leach into streams due to erosion after timbering.
Students will also measure streams for acidity or basicity, conductivity and their ability to neutralize alkalinity.
The Pitt-Bradford project involves at least four watersheds, several levels of timber harvesting and resampling procedures that will ensure the results are accurate and reliable.
The data students gather will be valuable for those planning forest management in the Allegheny National Forest.