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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Strategies to Mitigate the Effects of Soil Physical Disturbances Caused by Forest Machinery: a Comprehensive Review

Labelle, Eric R.; Hansson, Linnea; Hogbom, Lars; Jourgholami, Meghdad; Laschi, Andrea


Purpose of Review Ground-based mechanized forest operations can cause severe soil disturbances that are often long lasting and detrimental to the health of forested ecosystems. To reduce these soil disturbances, focus is being increasingly directed at identifying and using appropriate mitigation techniques. This systematic review considered 104 scientific articles and reported the main findings according to four core themes: terrain-related factors, operational planning, machine modifications, and types of amendments used to mitigate machine-induced soil impacts. Recent Findings For terrain-related factors, most severe disturbances occur on machine operating trails exceeding 20% slope and that soil bulk density and rut depth show greater increases in fine-textured soils. When considering operational planning, trafficability maps proved to be helpful in reducing the frequency and magnitude of soil damages as well as the length of trails needed within harvest sites, especially if they are regularly updated with weather information. Machine modifications, through high flotation tires, use of extra bogie axle, lower inflation pressure, and use of steel flexibles tracks, are highly researched topics because of the considerable upside in terms of machine ground pressure distribution and increased traction. Two main types of amendments emerged to mitigate soil disturbances: brush mats and mulch cover. Brush mats created from harvesting debris can spread the load of a machine to a greater area thereby lowering peak loads transferred to the soil. Brush mats of 15-20 kg m(-2) are being recommended for adequate soil protection from harvesting operations. To conclude, we outline recommendations and strategies on the use of soil mitigation techniques within cut-to-length forest operations. New research opportunities are also identified and discussed. Considering single factors causing machine-induced soil disturbances remains important but there is a pressing need for having a multi-disciplinary approach to tackle the complex problems associated with machine/soil/plant interactions.


Harvesting; Planning; Rutting; Soil compaction; Mitigation techniques; Sustainability

Published in

Current Forestry Reports
2022, volume: 8, number: 1, pages: 20-37

Authors' information

Labelle, Eric R.
Laval University
Hansson, Linnea
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Forestry Research Institute of Sweden, Skogforsk
Jourgholami, Meghdad
University of Tehran
Laschi, Andrea
University of Palermo

Associated SLU-program


Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land

UKÄ Subject classification

Soil Science
Forest Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)