Long term effects of wet site timber harvesting and site preparation on soil properties and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) productivity in the lower Atlantic Coastal Plain

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Virginia Tech

Short term studies have suggested that ground based timber harvesting on wet sites can alter soil properties and inhibit early survival and growth of seedlings. Persistence of such negative effects may translate to losses in forest productivity over a rotation. During the fall and winter of 1989, numerous salvage logging operations were conducted during high soil moisture conditions on wet pine flats in the lower coastal plain of South Carolina following Hurricane Hugo. A long-term experiment (split-plot within an unbalanced randomized complete block design) allowed assessment of long term effects of rutted and compacted primary skid trails and subsequent site preparation on soil properties and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) productivity. The experiment had 12 blocks, four levels of site preparation as the whole plot factor (bedding, disking with bedding, disking, and no site preparation), and two levels of traffic as the subplot factor (primary skid trail, no obvious traffic). After 23 years, bedding and disking with bedding treatments effectively enhanced soil physical properties and stand productivity via promoting greater survival and stocking, but had little effect on the size of individual trees relative to disking and no site preparation treatments. Primary skid trails significantly reduced the size of individual trees, but had no appreciable long term effects on soil properties or stand productivity after 23 years. The study suggests that bedding is the most efficient practice to enhance soil properties, seedling survival, and stand productivity on wet sites. However, site preparation is not necessary for these soils and sites, if strictly intended to restore soil properties and stand productivity in primary skid trails. Reduction in individual tree sizes on primary skid trails emphasizes benefits in minimizing the spatial extent of disturbance.

site preparation, skid trails, Loblolly pine, site productivity, soil properties, wet site harvesting, forested wetlands