Canadian Forest Service Publications
Soil disturbance and five-year tree growth in a montane alternative silvicultural systems (MASS) trial. 2004. Maynard, D.G.; Senyk, J.P. The Forestry Chronicle 80(5): 573-582.
Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 25004
Ground-based forestry practices can negatively affect soil productivity by altering the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil. The effect of soil disturbance on soil properties and tree growth was evaluated following single-pass hydraulic excavator and multiple-pass combined excavator and flexible track grapple skidder forwarding in four silvicultural systems treatments: Clearcut (CC), Green Tree Retention (GT), Patch Cut (PC), and Uniform Shelterwood (SW). The effectiveness of an excavator soil-rehabilitation technique (tilling) in decompacting skidtrails (i.e., reducing soil bulk density) and nutrient availability was also evaluated. Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.) and amabilis fir (Abies amabilis Dougl. Ex. Forbes) seedlings were planted on undisturbed plots, within tracks and between tracks of skidtrails, and in rehabilitated trails within the four harvesting treatments in the spring of 1994. Seedling growth was measured after five growing seasons, and nutrient concentrations of current-year foliage were determined at the end of the fourth growing season. Seedling survival and growth was generally reduced by soil disturbances associated with skid-trails. Effects of disturbance on physical properties of soil (e.g., compaction, puddling) and disruption of drainage were the most likely causes. Nutrient deficiencies do not appear to be a factor. Nonetheless, nitrogen concentrations were lower in current-year foliage taken from rehabilitation treatments than from either undisturbed or skidtrail treatments. Effectiveness of soil rehabilitation varied. In well-drained deeper soils, tilling reduced soil bulk density to levels below those of undisturbed soils and, in the short-term (five years), improved tree growth. In wetter conditions, rehabilitation treatment decreased survival and growth of both species. Thus specific rehabilitation (tilling) prescriptions should not be universally applied across a landscape.