Quantifying the altered hydrologic connectivity of forest roads resulting from decommissioning and relocation

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Eastaugh, CS, Rustomji, PK & Hairsine, PB 2008, 'Quantifying the altered hydrologic connectivity of forest roads resulting from decommissioning and relocation', Hydrological Processes, vol. 22, no. 14, pp. 2438-2448.

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The decommissioning of roads is occurring in many forest environments with the aim of reducing the negative impacts of road runoff on water quality and aquatic habitat. Works associated with decommissioning are expensive so prior assessment of the outcomes of various options is merited. This paper presents a method of quantifying the degree to which a road is hydrologically connected to the stream network and thus the likely impacts of constructing a road of different configurations upon water quality. The method permits comparisons between different road network management options and is useful for assessing the likely result of decommissioning works. Emphasis is placed on quantifying the uncertainty of key performance measures. The procedures developed here are an extension of the probabilistic 'volume to breakthrough' model recently formulated by Australian water quality researchers and allow the quantification of road/stream connectivity without the need for extensive parameterization. To demonstrate its utility, the model was applied to an actual road decommissioning and replacement project in southeast Australia. Road areas and drainage outlets were surveyed in the field and flow paths to streams derived from a 1 metre resolution LiDAR based digital elevation model. The results demonstrate that the actual road decommissioning examined in this case was unlikely to reduce runoff to the stream network and that the overall impact of the works in conditions of design storms are likely to result in a net reduction in stream water quality