The influence of management on runoff and water quality in a coastal lowland PINUS plantation, Southeast Queensland

Forsyth, Adam (2006) The influence of management on runoff and water quality in a coastal lowland PINUS plantation, Southeast Queensland. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The exotic Pinus plantations of southeast Queensland occupy approximately 130 000 ha and are prominent in catchments which drain to estuarine and marine waters that are economically, socially, and environmentally important. Recently, the deterioration of estuarine and marine water quality has raised concerns about the possible off-site impacts from the intensive management of the Pinus estate in southeast Queensland. Additionally, forest managers have raised questions over the effects of the currently adopted management practices on soil, water, and nutrient resources within plantations. A paucity of information regarding the impacts of these plantations in the humid sub-tropics of southeast Queensland initiated the research presented here. The objectives of this study were to:

(i) determine the influence specific Pinus management techniques (harvesting, site-preparation, prescribed burning and forest roads) have on runoff generation;

(ii) quantify fluxes of some nutrients (nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and iron (Fe)) and suspended solids (SS) in runoff from these management treatments; and,

(iii) assess the overall effectiveness of the currently adopted Best Management Practices (BMP's) in protecting on-site soil, water and nutrient resources, as well as protecting off-site waters from pollution.

The study site was located in an intensively managed sub-catchment within the Beerburrum State Forest Pinus plantation on the coastal plain of the Pumicestone region, southeast Queensland. This study was established in October 2001 and consisted of a 141 ha catchment based investigation into water quality and hydrology, which received a 50 ha harvest treatment in February and March 2002. Water was monitored for two water years (October 2001 - September 2003), and incorporated site-preparation and the establishment of the subsequent rotation. The influence of a forest road stream crossing was also monitored in this component of the investigation. Two discrete forest road plots were monitored for the same period to measure the response of runoff, nutrient and sediment fluxes to different road surface materials (gravelled and ungravelled), road maintenance and traffic intensity. Rainfall simulation was used on small plots covering specific management treatments (clearfall harvest, cultivation, fertilised cultivation, prescribed fire and established trees) within the general plantation area to determine their influence on water, sediment and nutrient fluxes.

The investigation in the catchment receiving inter-rotation management revealed that that there was very little difference in water quality indices up and downstream of the forest road stream crossing, which suggests that road borne runoff contributed only minor amounts of N, P, Fe and SS to the stream. Perched groundwater quality within the general plantation area was similar to that observed in the adjacent stream. Water quality monitoring within the Coochin-Mellum and Coonowrin Creek catchments showed that the mean annual concentrations of N and P in surface waters were highest from catchments hosting agriculture and residential areas, respectively. Mean annual DOC and Fe concentrations were highest from the catchment hosting native Wallum vegetation. The mean annual concentration of SS was highest from an unmanaged native forest catchment.

The rainfall simulation on specific management treatments revealed that mean losses of N and P from unfertilised and unburnt treatments were comparable to loads reported from catchment scale studies in the Pinus plantations of south-east Queensland. Mean SS loads from all treatments were considerably higher than stream loads reported in the literature from catchment scale investigations, and suggest that the currently adopted mitigation practices between the general plantation area and streams are effective in promoting the deposition of entrained solids.

The investigation into gravelled and ungravelled forest roads revealed that the mean runoff coefficient (runoff depth / rainfall depth) was consistently higher from the gravelled road plot with 0.57, as compared to the ungravelled road with 0.38. Total sediment loss over the two year period was greatest from the gravelled road plot. Suspended solids contributed 86% of the total sediment loss from the gravelled road and 72% from the ungravelled road over the two years. When road and drain maintenance (grading) was performed runoff and sediment loss was increased from both road types.

It should be noted that the results presented herein were based on only two water years, and both years experienced below average rainfall. As such it is important that future research in a catchment prone to waterlogging be conducted over a longer term so as to increase the chance of quantifying water, nutrient and sediment fluxes in response to average and above average rainfall years. It is likely that in above average rainfall years the results for nutrient and sediment fluxes from the general plantation area would be significantly different as runoff would be more readily generated and sustained for longer periods.

Overall, the research presented suggests that the management of an exotic Pinus plantation during the inter-rotation period results in relatively low fluxes of N, P, SS Fe and DOC in stream water and vindicates the use of the current practices in protecting on-site water, soil and nutrient resources.

Impact and interest:

38 citations in Web of Science®
Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

1,060 since deposited on 03 Dec 2008
60 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 16264
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Cox, Malcolm & Bubb, Ken
Keywords: Pinus, inter-rotation management, nutrients, sediment, runoff, harvest, roads, prescribed burn, site-preparation
Divisions: Past > Schools > Biogeoscience
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Department: Faculty of Science
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Adam Forsyth
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:59
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:45

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page