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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

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

    Associated SLU-program


    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG15 Life on land

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Soil Science
    Forest Science

    Publication identifier


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