Luce, Charles H. 1997. Effectiveness of road ripping in restoring infiltration capacity of forest roads. Restoration ecology 5(3): 265–270.
Many forest roads are being closed as a step in watershed restoration. Ripping roads with subsoilers or rock rippers is a common practice to increase the infiltration capacity of roads prior to closure. When considering the effectiveness of ripping for reducing runoff and erosion and the potential reduction in slope stability by saturating road fills, it is important to know how ripping changes the infiltration capacity of forest roads. Hydrographs from simulated rainfall on 1-m x 1-m plots were analyzed to find the saturated hydraulic conductivity, an indicator of infiltration capacity. I examined saturated hydraulic conductivity for three treatments on two different soils. One road was built in a soil derived from the metamorphic belt series geology of northern Idaho, a soil noted for its high rock fragment content. The second road was built in a sandy soil derived from decomposed granitics of the Idaho batholith. On each soil, five plots were installed on a road prior to ripping, and nine plots were installed on the same road segment following ripping, four covered with a heavy straw mulch and five without. Three half-hour rainfall events with intensities near 90 mm/hr were simulated on each plot. Results show that ripping increases hydraulic conductivities enough to reduce risk of runoff but does not restore the natural hydraulic conductivity of a forested slope. The unripped road surfaces had hydraulic conductivities in the range of 0-4 mm/hr, whereas ripped roads were in the range of 20-40 mm/hr after the second event. Surface sealing and tilled soil subsidence processes are important in reducing the hydraulic conductivity of the soils with repeated wetting. Subsidence appears to be important on the granitic soil, whereas surface sealing was more important on the belt series soil.
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