Zane Kalvite, Zane Libiete, Arta Bardule


Rise in human population, industrialization, urbanization, intensified agriculture and forestry pose considerable risks to water supply and quality both on global and regional scale. While freshwater resources are abundant in Latvia, during recent years increased attention has been devoted to water quality in relation to anthropogenic impacts. Forest cover in Latvia equals 52% and forest management and forest infrastructure building and maintenance are among the activities that may, directly or indirectly, affect water quality in headwater catchments. Sedimentation, eutrophication and export of hazardous substances, especially mercury (Hg), are of highest concern.
To address these topics, several initiatives have started recently. In 2011, cooperation programme between Latvian State Forest Research Institute (LSFRI) “Silava” and JSC “Latvia’s State Forests” was launched to evaluate the impact of forest management on the environment. This programme included research on the efficiency of water protection structures used at drainage system maintenance (sedimentation ponds, overland flow) and regeneration felling (bufferzones). In 2016, within the second stage of this cooperation programme, a study on the impact of forest management on water quality (forest road construction, drainage system maintenance, felling) was started on a catchment scale.
Since 2016 LSFRI Silava is partner in the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme project “Water management in Baltic forests”. By focusing on drainage systems, riparian zones and beaver activity, this project aims at reducing nutrient and Hg export from forestry sites to streams and lakes. While this project mostly has a demonstration character, it will also offer novel results on Hg and methylmercury (MeHg) concentrations in beaver ponds in all participating states.
This paper aims at summarizing most important challenges related to the impact of forest management on water quality and corresponding recent initiatives striving to offer solutions.

Keywords: forest infrastructure building, forest management, water protection measures, water quality

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