Plant communities and landform relationships delineate the components of soil complexes subject to whole-tree harvest restriction

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Whole-tree harvesting practices are often restricted on soils with intrinsically low soil nutrients. Delineating restricted soil components from nonrestricted components presents a challenge for forest practitioners working with glaciofluvial parent materials. We investigated a suite of biological and edaphic factors to assess if restricted soil components are functionally distinct from nonrestricted soil components in partially restricted soil complexes across northern Wisconsin, USA. This study tested repeatable methods for soil delineation based on soil particle size, varying in spatial extent, and are independent of county boundaries or discrepancies across soil survey areas. Habitat type provided the most robust tool to distinguish the soil components and is the recommended approach. Habitat typing currently requires field data collection, since it does not exist as a geographic information system product in Wisconsin. Timber sale establishment often occurs during the off-season when habitat typing is not possible. In this case, an additional decision tree including habitat type and deviation from mean elevation (DEV) model is provided to estimate soil components remotely and verify the results when habitat typing is feasible. The 1,300-m radius DEV performed best with a 10-m digital elevation model, and reflects the differences between moraines and outwash plains landforms. These findings suggest that the utility of the DEV model and spatially explicit soil textural information in delineating restricted series from soil complexes has promise in light of improved remotely sensed information and geographic information system technologies that can be field-validated by habitat type.

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Soil Science Society of America Journal