Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Forest Ecology and Management (MS)

College, School or Department Name

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Martin F. Jurgensen


The amount and type of ground cover is an important characteristic to measure when collecting soil disturbance monitoring data after a timber harvest. Estimates of ground cover and bare soil can be used for tracking changes in invasive species, plant growth and regeneration, woody debris loadings, and the risk of surface water runoff and soil erosion. A new method of assessing ground cover and soil disturbance was recently published by the U.S. Forest Service, the Forest Soil Disturbance Monitoring Protocol (FSDMP). This protocol uses the frequency of cover types in small circular (15cm) plots to compare ground surface in pre- and post-harvest condition. While both frequency and percent cover are common methods of describing vegetation, frequency has rarely been used to measure ground surface cover. In this study, three methods for assessing ground cover percent (step-point, 15cm dia. circular and 1x5m visual plot estimates) were compared to the FSDMP frequency method. Results show that the FSDMP method provides significantly higher estimates of ground surface condition for most soil cover types, except coarse wood. The three cover methods had similar estimates for most cover values. The FSDMP method also produced the highest value when bare soil estimates were used to model erosion risk. In a person-hour analysis, estimating ground cover percent in 15cm dia. plots required the least sampling time, and provided standard errors similar to the other cover estimates even at low sampling intensities (n=18). If ground cover estimates are desired in soil monitoring, then a small plot size (15cm dia. circle), or a step-point method can provide a more accurate estimate in less time than the current FSDMP method.