Meurisse, Robert T. 1995. Soil: The foundation of the ecosystem; effects of management activities on forest soils: Can we manage better? Natural Resource News. 13-16 p.
Since Aristotle considered soil in relation to plant nutrition (348-322 B.C.), knowledge of soils has made tremendous strides. The way we view soils has evolved from a focus on agriculture to modem views of soil from multiple perspectives, including that of soils as natural bodies, partitioners of water, a medium for plant growth, soils as ecosystems and ecosystem components, and soil as engineering materials.
Our knowledge of soils and their roles in forest ecosystems is undergoing rapid change. In particular, knowledge of the composition and processes below ground is increasingly of interest to forest practioners. This is where most of the biotic diversity is and where annual carbon accumulation often is greater than above ground. Yet, too often the focus of forestry is on the vegetation rather than the soil system that regulates rates, quantities, and types of vegetative growth.
There has been much written, discussed, and debated recently about forest health, rangeland health, and watershed health. While each of these entities are important in their own right, the broader issue is one of “Ecosystem Health.” And one cannot address ecosystem health without addressing “Soil Health.” In particular, an understanding of management effects on soils is critical if we are going to provide healthy forests, healthy rangelands, healthy watersheds, or healthy ecosystems.
There is an expanding body of knowledge about the effects of management activities on forest soils. While there is much yet to be learned, our experience and knowledge do permit some general statements about management effects. The focus of my presentation is on the effects of some key management practices on soil properties, processes, and products derived from the soil.