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Impacts of Skidding Traffic Intensity on Soil Disturbance, Soil Recovery, and Aspen Regeneration in North Central Minnesota

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We investigated the effects of different levels of ground-based skidding traffic intensity on soil disturbance, characterized by resistance to penetration (RP) within the top 15 cm of soil, as well as soil recovery, regeneration, and early growth of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) suckers 3 years after a clearcut with reserves summer harvest. Equipment traffic was confined to a network of skid trails, and a GPS was used to determine the number of skidder passes at each of 30 sampling points that were preestablished along an anticipated disturbance gradient ranging from landings to skid trails to areas off skid trails. Thirty-one percent of the harvest area was affected by skid traffic, and up to 603 passes were recorded for a plot. RP increased nonlinearly with the number of passes and reached highest levels at the soil surface. Three years after harvest, soils showed partial recovery in the upper 10-cm layer, with full recovery of the surface layer (0–5 cm depth) when affected by 4 or fewer passes. The deepest layer (10–15 cm), however, showed little recovery since harvest. Sucker density, height, and basal diameter of all suckers and height, basal diameter, and dbh of the tallest suckers were significantly reduced with increasing traffic intensity but were not related to increases in RP. Predicted reduction of sucker density was approximately one-third after 10 passes; reductions of height, basal diameter, and dbh were between 1.5 and 2.5% at 10 passes and 3.5 and 6.5% at 25 passes. Because skidding traffic affected only a limited portion of the stand, the productivity of the future aspen stand was not severely impaired, at least in the very short term.

Keywords: GPS; aspen; harvesting; skid trail; soil compaction

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Northern Journal of Applied Forestry covers northeastern, midwestern, and boreal forests in the United States and Canada.
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