The researchers from the Landscape Analysis Laboratory at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., say such failure raises serious questions about the sustainable management of the plateau's deciduous forests.
The study revealed only about 15 percent of streamside management zones, or SMZs, on property that had been subject to timber harvesting since 2000 were in compliance with management guidelines set by the Forest Stewardship Council, an international environmental group.
"Our results raise another huge red flag for the sustainable management of forests on the Cumberland Plateau," said Biology Professor Jonathan Evans, one of the study's authors. "The fact that only 15 percent of SMZs meet a management standard endorsed by the Tennessee Division of Forestry is alarming to say the least."
Streamside management zones, also known as riparian buffers, are areas of vegetation along the banks of streams that prevent soil erosion, filter pollutants and provide habitat for wildlife.
The research appears in the Journal of Forestry.