You are here: Home / Research Topics / Research Highlights / Individual Highlight

Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

New protocols help understand changing soils

Training sessions such as this one in Region 5 ensures that the Forest Soil Disturbance Monitoring Protocol is used consistently across National Forests in the U.S. Forest ServiceSnapshot : Forest Service scientists have met the challenge of developing meaningful soil quality standards that can evaluate the full range of variability found in forest soils.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Page-Dumroese, Deborah S.  
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2011
Highlight ID : 391


Productive forest soils are the underpinning for sustainable forest activities, and monitoring is the key to ensuring productivity has not been altered by land management. Maintenance of soil quality on National Forest System land is governed, in part, by the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1969 and the National Forest Management Act of 1976. The challenge has been to develop meaningful soil quality standards that can evaluate the full range of variability found in forest soils. Many forest soils are resilient, while others are at risk after land management treatments.

Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists developed a standardized forest soil monitoring protocol that uses visual classifications to describe the degree and extent of soil disturbance, and helps managers determine if those effects are detrimental to long-term site productivity. The U.S. Forest Service issued a letter in 2010 endorsing this soil monitoring protocol as a statistically rigorous, standardized, rapid assessment of pre- and post-harvest soil disturbance that provides repeatable and consistent methods to describe changes in soil physical conditions. The Station has published two field guides that describe the field methods and statistics of soil monitoring, as well as a picture guide to the disturbance categories, and developed an on-line training curriculum. In addition, the Station sponsored workshops in every Forest Service Region to outline the protocol and conduct field training sessions.

All publications and training materials are available at the following Web address under the Forest Soil Disturbance Monitoring Toolkit section:

Program Areas