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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Modelling forest road trafficability with satellite-based soil moisture variables

Fjeld, Dag; Persson, Magnus; Fransson, Johan E. S.; Bjerketvedt, Jan; Brathen, Martin


Recent decades have seen increased temperatures and precipitation in the Nordic countries with long-term projections for reduced frost duration and depth. The consequence of these trends has been a gradual shift of delivery volumes to the frost-free season, requiring more agile management to exploit suitable weather conditions. Bearing capacity and trafficability are dependent on soil moisture state and in this context two satellite missions offer potenially useful information on soil moisture levels; NASA's SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) and ESA's Sentinel-1. The goal of this pilot study was to quantify the performance of such satellite-based soil moisture variables for modeling forest road bearing capacity (e-module) during the frost-free season. The study was based on post-transport registrations of 103 forest road segments on the coastal and interior side of the Scandinavian mountain range. The analysis focused on roads of three types of surface deposits. Weekly SMAP soil moisture values better explained the variation in road e-module than soil water index (SWI) derived from Sentinel-1. Soil Water Index (SWI), however, reflected the weather conditions typical for operations on the respective surface deposit types. Regression analysis using (i) SMAP-based soil dryness index and (ii) its interaction with surface deposit types, together with (iii) the ratio between a combined SMAP_SWI dryness index and segment-specific depth to water (DTW) explained over 70% of the variation in road e-module. The results indicate a future potential to monitor road trafficability over large supply areas on a weekly level, given further refinement of study methods and variables for improved prediction.


Bearing capacity; LFWD; satellite radar; climate change

Published in

International Journal of Forest Engineering
2024, Volume: 35, number: 1, pages: 93-104

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

    Publication identifier


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