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Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9318
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD

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Clean Air and Water

Sediment Delivery and Best Management Practices

Research Issue

[photo:] Roads are a major source of erosion and sedimentation in forests. Until the road surface is graveled, the gentle grade and broad-based dip (in the center of this photograph) will help control erosion on this road. Soil is eroded and delivered naturally to streams and rivers by rainfall, gravity, and other processes, and these inputs are important for maintaining healthy channel conditions.  Human-caused, elevated inputs can be detrimental to water bodies because they can affect water quality, fish reproduction and survival, channel stability, and flooding potential.  Road construction and road use are the most common sources of elevated sediment in forested watersheds, but new disturbances, such as energy development, are increasingly affecting forest ecosystems. Understanding the processes that control natural and human-induced erosion and sedimentation is essential for maintaining water quality and stream health, and for improving the effectiveness of practices used to limit water pollution (i.e., best management practices, or BMPs).  

Our Research

We undertake studies that measure erosion and sediment transport from the hillsides to streams in undisturbed and managed forested watersheds in the central Appalachians.  In conjunction with those measurements, we use a variety of sophisticated techniques to identify the sources of the sediment and the hillslope characteristics that contribute to or control sediment movement.  That information is examined in combination with the BMPs that are in place to help provide better information BMP effectiveness.  

Expected Outcomes

Understanding soil erosion rates and the factors that control soil erosion and transport can help us improve the design and effectiveness of BMPs, which ultimately will improve water quality.  Additionally, our research results can aid in the development of site-specific BMP recommendations, which could further improve BMP effectiveness.  Tailoring BMPs to situations or conditions that have the greatest potential for protecting water quality can make BMP implementation more cost effective, and therefore, more attractive to all landowners.

Research Results

Edwards, Pamela J.; Wood, Frederica; Quinlivan, Robin L. 2016. Effectiveness of best management practices that have application to forest roads: a literature synthesis. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-163. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 171 p.

Edwards, P.J.; Williard, K.W.J.; Schoonover, J.E. 2015. Guiding principles for management of forested, agricultural, and urban watersheds. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education. 154: 60-84.

Holz, Daniel J.; Williard, Karl W.J.; Edwards, Pamela J.; Schoonover, Jon E. 2015. Soil erosion in humid regions: a review. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education. 154: 48-59.

Pankau, R. C.; Schoonover, J. E.; Williard, K. W. J.; Edwards, P. J. 2012. Concentrated flow paths in riparian buffer zones of southern Illinois.  Agroforestry Systems 84: 191-205.

Wang, Jingxin; Edwards, Pamela J.; Goff, William A. 2011. Assessing changes to in-stream turbidity following construction of a forest road in West Virginia. In: Chaubey, I; Yagow, G, eds. 2010 Watershed management to improve water quality; 2010 November 14-17; Baltimore, MD. Publ. Number 711P0710cd. St. Joseph, MI: American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Harrison, Bridget. 2011. Erosion from a cross country gas pipeline in the central Appalachians. M.S. Thesis, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL. 69 p.

Edwards, Pamela; Williard, Karl W.J. 2010. Efficiencies of forestry best management practices for reducing sediment and nutrient losses in the eastern United States. Journal of Forestry. July/August: 245-249.

Wang, Jingxin; Edwards, Pam; Hamons, Greg W.; Goff, William. 2010. Assessing RUSLE and hill-slope soil movement modeling in the central Appalachians. In: 2010 ASABE annual international meeting proceedings; 2010 June 20-23; Pittsburgh, PA. St. Joseph, MI: American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers: 1-13.

Edwards, Pamela; Carlson, Joan; Roby Ken; Henderson, Rick. 2010. The USDA Forest Service’s national best management practice program. In: Results, Seventh National Monitoring Conference – Monitoring from the Summit to the Sea. Washington, DC: National Water Quality Monitoring Council.

Edwards, Pamela J.; Wang, Jingxin; Stedman, Joshua T. 2009. Recommendations for constructing forest stream crossings to control soil losses.  In: Proceedings, American Water Resources Association 2009 Specialty Conference. 2009 July 1-3; Snowbird, UT. American Water Resources Association. 6 p.

Stedman, Joshua T. 2008.  To-stream sediment delivery and associated particle size distributions in unmanaged and managed forested watersheds. M.S. thesis. Department of Forestry, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL.

Bold, Kevin C. 2007. Erosion control practices in managed forested watersheds: vegetation establishment and broad-based dips. M.S. thesis. Department of Forestry, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL.

Bold, Kevin; Edwards, Pamela; Williard, Karl. 2007. A case study of an erosion control practice: the broad-based dip. In: Sessions, J.; Havill, Y., eds. Proceedings, International Mountain Logging and 13th Pacific Northwest Skyline Symposium. 2007 April 1-6; Corvallis, OR. Oregon State University and International Union of Forestry Research Organizations:65-71.

Hamons, Gregory. 2007. Modeling sediment movement in forested watersheds using hill-slope attributes. M.S. thesis. Division of Forestry, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.

Ryder, Roger; Edwards, Pamela. 2006. A regional protocol for evaluating the effectiveness of forestry best management practices at controlling erosion and sedimentation. In: Proceedings, Eighth Federal Interagency Sedimentation Conference. 2006 April 2-6; Reno, NV. 7 p.

Edwards, Pamela J.; Evans, Gregory L. 2004. Giving greater consideration to cross-drainage discharge from forest roads. In: Proceedings, Riparian Ecosystems and Buffers: Multi-scale Structure, Function, and Management, American Water Resources Association Summer Specialty Conference. 2004 June 28-30; Olympic Valley, CA. American Water Resources Association. 6 p.

Edwards, Pamela J. 2003. Forestry best management practices: where we’ve been, where we’re going. In: Proceedings, 2003 Penn State Forest Resources Issues Conference, Forestry’s Role in Integrated Water Management. 2003 March 25-26; University Park, PA. Pennsylvania State University:26-33.

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

  • Pamela J. Edwards, USDA Forest Service –Northern Research Station - Research Hydrologist

Research Partners

Last Modified: 06/13/2018