Vegetation Affecting Water Quality in Small Streams: Case Study in Hemiboreal Forests, Latvia

Plants (Basel). 2022 May 16;11(10):1316. doi: 10.3390/plants11101316.


Riparian forests are important ecosystems located along the margins of freshwaters. Riparian zones provide many ecosystem services, such as nutrient modification, erosion and temperature control, leading to improvements in water quality in adjacent water ecosystems. In many areas, riparian forest management is restricted to improve adjacent water quality. The potential influence of forest management on water quality of small streams was assessed by analysing species composition and structural diversity in riparian forests. We collected data in riparian forests along 15 streams in the eastern Baltics (Latvia) with different water quality classes. We used detrended correspondence analysis and indicator species' analysis to determine relationships between woody plants and understory vegetation. We also used ADONIS and ANOSIM analysis to determine possible factors that affect species composition. Our results suggested that water quality is affected by ground vegetation, which in turn was altered by stand density and total yield. Site-specific decision making in management is required in riparian forests to ensure the required conditions in the streams, because species composition differs between sites, dominant tree species and stand parameters (density, total yield, stand age). Introduction of Betula pubescens Ehrh. in coniferous stands is favourable to ensure litter fall quality and provide shade for streams during summer.

Keywords: ecosystem service; forest management; riparian forests; small streams; species composition.