Measuring and Improving the Water Quality Benefits of Sustainable Forest Management Across the Southeastern U.S.

Monitoring and Quantifying the Effects of State Forestry BMP Programs on Soil Erosion and Sediment Delivery for the Southeastern US
Why this project matters
This collaborative project, led by Virginia Tech, will comprehensively compare and contrast the implementation and effectiveness of the 13 Southeastern states’ forestry best management practices (BMPs) for water quality. This will require monitoring sediment delivery ratios, erosion rates, and BMP‑implementation scores across multiple regions. Findings will allow state forestry organizations and other stakeholders to quantify sediment protection provided by state BMP programs and highlight the sustainability of forest management.
How the project helps enhance best management practices for water quality
Sediment is the largest stream water pollutant from forest management in the southeastern U.S.
Currently, relationships between actual soil erosion and sediment delivery are poorly understood. This comprehensive multiregional and multi-sponsor study will collect, analyze, and interpret data using seven major objectives, including:
  • Estimating sediment-delivery ratios (i.e., soil eroded and the amount of sediment deposited into streams) by forest region and forest operation
  • Quantifying the relationships between BMP implementation percentages and sediment delivery and/or soil erosion
  • Estimating the impact that state and regional BMP programs have had on sediment reduction
SFI’s contribution
This program features strong partnerships and an ambitious scope that is poised to deliver a major contribution to SFI’s Conservation Impact Project work around water values. The goal of 10 peer‑reviewed studies adds considerable credibility to this work and provides a base for broad communications among less‑technical audiences. Results will also be delivered on the ground through logger training programs and professional conferences. The collaboration across multiple states represented by this project will advance both understanding and the ability of researchers and practitioners to compare and quantify the efficacy of BMP implementation across broad geographies and disparate ownerships.
How the project helps forest managers
This project directly relates to the SFI priority area of quantifying the impact of SFI Program Participant activities relative to improving stream habitat and/or water quality. Project results will have benefits across the U.S. South with regard to documenting the effects of BMP implementation on sediment delivery to streams on lands managed by SFI Program Participants. This information will also help compare forestry to other land uses and show benefits of sustainable forest management and BMP implementation.
SFI will use the data generated by the project to guide best practices and provide information to forest managers that may help them enhance water quality. Better and more consistent data will enable forest managers across the U.S. and Canada to build understanding of BMPs for water quality.
Results will also be presented to resource professionals at multiple venues such as the Biennial Southern Silviculture Research Conference, Council on Forest Engineering, Society of American Foresters National Convention, SFI Annual Conference, and the Soil Science Society of America conference. Information will also be incorporated into logger training presentations, which are required under SFI forest management and fiber sourcing certification.
This partnership includes academics, conservationists, researchers, SFI Program Participants and state government officials.
Project lead: Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
Sustainable Forestry Initiative
Virginia SFI Implementation Committee
National Council for Air and Stream Improvement
Southern Group of State Foresters
Virginia Department of Forestry
North Carolina Forest Service
Texas A&M Forest Service
Related information
Recognizing the Value of Forest Certification in Protecting Water Quality (media release).
EPA: No Further Regulation of Forest Roads Necessary — Science-Based Best Management Practices Programs Offer Effective Water Quality Protections (media release).
Ducks Unlimited Canada: Development of best practices for forestry road design and construction around wetlands.
About the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
The Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation is one of four departments within the College of Natural Resources and Environment and it’s one of the top programs in natural resource management in the United States. It focuses on the latest applications to uncover the science needed to manage forests and other natural resources. Its programs are diverse and approach critical natural resource issues from many disciplinary perspectives. From protected areas management and economic policy to forest soil productivity, urbanization, and genomics, researchers seek to discover new knowledge and technology to address the global challenges to come.