Box 5-4
Watersheds: Measures of Their Integrity


Factors considered

Basin Geomorphology

Physiography, geology, natural disturbance regimes

Hydrologic Patterns

Discharge pattern, flood characteristics, water storage, bedload and sediment routing, subsurface dynamics

Water Quality

Biogeochemical processes, nutrient load

Riparian Forests

Light, temperature, stream inputs, woody debris


Fish habitats and communities, woody debris, wildlife


Source: adapted from Naiman et al. 1992

integrity to the public is often expressed for large-scale watersheds across many ownerships (Box 5-4) but the value is derived from the processes occurring at smaller scales.

Summary of Findings and Recommendations

Fundamental sustainability of the ecosystems that are a part of nonfederal forestlands is critical to the production of goods and services that Americans are likely to expect from these forests in the future. The problems caused by forest fragmentation, land conversion, intensive land management, fire, pollution, climatic change, insects, disease, and alien plants are landscape-level and cross the boundaries of many ownerships. From a social and an environmental perspective, it is important that the adverse affects of catastrophic levels of fires, winds, mammals, and insects and diseases be addressed. An enhanced, coordinated approach involving the federal government and nongovernmental landowners is needed for the management or mitigation of these impacts on forest health and sustainability.


Ensure the long-term integrity of forest ecosystems that comprise the nation's nonfederal forests, actively addressing conditions that diminish their ability to contribute to the well-being of the nation's citizens.

This recommendation points to the following specific recommendations:

  • The federal government should strengthen programs that monitor nonfederal forest health, with special focus on early detection of conditions that could lead to catastrophic consequences.
  • Federal assistance to states should be strengthened for wildfire suppression and fuel management technologies, while recognizing fire as critical to functioning, healthy ecological processes.

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