Evidence supporting the need for a common soil monitoring protocol


  • Derrick Reeves Environmental Science Program, University of Idaho
  • Mark Coleman College of Natural Resources, University of Idaho
  • Deborah Page-Dumroese Rocky Mountain Research Station, United States Forest Service




disturbance monitoring, soil disturbance, timber harvest


Many public land management agencies monitor forest soils for levels of disturbance related to management activities. Although several soil disturbance monitoring protocols based on visual observation have been developed to assess the amount and types of disturbance caused by forest management, no common method is currently used on National Forest lands in the United States. We present data on relative soil disturbance based on harvest system from National Forests throughout Montana and Idaho. Because each National Forest uses its own method for data collection, we developed a common, well-defined visual class system for analyses based on the existing soil monitoring data that accurately normalized disparate classifications. Using this common system, we detected differences in soil disturbance between the ground-based and overhead harvest systems; however, no site attributes (slope, aspect, soil texture, etc.) affected soil disturbance levels. The individual National Forest was the most important factor explaining differences among harvest units. The effect of National Forest may be explained by different forest types, soils, harvest practices, or administrative procedures, but the most likely explanation is differences among the various qualitative classification approaches to soil disturbance monitoring. Although
this analysis used a large data set, our inability to correlate disturbance with site characteristics and the differences between monitoring methods points to the need for common terms and comparable guidelines for soil disturbance monitoring.

Author Biographies

Derrick Reeves, Environmental Science Program, University of Idaho

Environmental Science Dept., Graduate Research Assisstant

Mark Coleman, College of Natural Resources, University of Idaho

Professor, Dept. of Forest Ecology and Biogeosciences

Deborah Page-Dumroese, Rocky Mountain Research Station, United States Forest Service

Rocky Mountain Research Station, Research Soil Scientist






Discussion Papers