Canadian Forest Service Publications

Forest floor recovery index: Boreal Mixedwood field guide. 2019. Hoffman, D.R.; Shaw, C.H.; Kull, S.J.; Voicu, M.F.; McNalty, C. Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Northern Forestry Centre, Edmonton, Alberta.

Year: 2019

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 39494

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Mark record


The Forest Floor Recovery Index (FFRI) aims to assess ecosystem recovery using changes in forest floor properties during stand development following reclamation. Modeled predictions from the Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector were used to generate recommendations for the tree biomass inputs required to build natural forest floors. This FFRI manual presents a simplified forest floor classification system, using photographs and descriptions to illustrate examples of 19 forest floor types, differentiated according to composition and dominant horizons. The manual provides users with guidance in data compilation, determination of an index of recovery through comparison of site data with reference data, and an assessment of the tree biomass inputs needed for natural forest floor development. This approach provides a useful tool for monitoring recovery of forest sites that have been disturbed and subsequently reclaimed following oil sands development activities.

Plain Language Summary

The forest floor is made up of dead tree biomass such as foliage, branches, and tree trunks that have partly decayed on the ground. It plays an important role in the function of forests because it stores carbon, recycles nutrients, and is the habitat for much of a forest’s biodiversity. The Forest Floor Recovery Index (FFRI) is a system that uses changes in forest floor properties over the life of a forest (about 100 years) to represent ecosystem recovery following reclamation in the oil sands region. Forest floor thickness was measured and forest floors were classified at over 200 sites within the Boreal Mixedwood region of Alberta. A forest carbon computer model was used to give an idea of the amount of tree biomass that must be added to the ground to build natural forest floors. The FFRI field guide uses example photographs to provide a simple classification system of the forest floor and describes the steps needed to calculate an Index of Recovery. The FFRI field guide is important because no other method exists to determine if forest floors are recovering after reclamation in the oil sands region. This method could also be adapted to other parts of Canada.