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


Assessment of soil disturbance on the Custer National Forest was conducted during two summers to determine if the U.S. Forest Service Forest Soil Disturbance Monitoring Protocol (FSDMP) was able to distinguish post-harvest soil conditions in a chronological sequence of sites harvested using different ground-based logging systems. Results from the first year of sampling suggested that the FSDMP point sampling method may not be sensitive enough to measure post-harvest disturbance in stands with low levels of disturbance. Therefore, a revised random transect method was used during the second sampling season to determine the actual extent of soil disturbance in these cutting units. Using combined data collected from both summers I detected statistically significant differences (p < 0.05) in fine fraction bulk density measurements between FSDMP disturbance classes across all sites. Disturbance class 3 (most severe) had the highest reported bulk density, which suggest that the FSDMP visual class estimates are defined adequately allowing for correlations to be made between visual disturbance and actual soil physical characteristics.

Forest site productivity can be defined by its ability to retain carbon and convert it to above- and belowground biomass. However, forest management activities that alter basic site characteristics have the potential to alter productivity. Soil compaction is one critical management impact that is important to understand; compaction has been shown to impede the root growth potential of plants, reduce water infiltration rates increasing erosion potential, and alter plant available water and nutrients, depending on soil texture. A new method to assess ground cover, erosion, and other soil disturbances was recently published by the U.S. Forest Service, as the Forest Soil Disturbance Protocol (FSDMP). The FSDMP allows soil scientists to visually assign a disturbance class estimate (0 – none, 1, 2, 3 – severe) from field measures of consistently defined soil disturbance indicators (erosion, fire, rutting, compaction, and platy/massive/puddled structure) in small circular (15 cm) plots to compare soil quality properties pre- and post- harvest condition. Using this protocol we were able to determine that ground-based timber harvesting activities occurring on the Custer National Forest are not reaching the 15% maximum threshold for detrimental soil disturbance outlined by the Region 1 Soil Quality Standards.