Forest Science Program


Maintaining soil productivity in forest biomass chipping operations best management practices for soil conservation

Author(s) or contact(s): R. Kabzems, S. Dube, M. Curran, B. Chapman, S. Berch, G. Hope, M. Kranabetter, and C. Bulmer
Source: Forest Science Program
Subject: Soil Conservation
Series: Extension Note
Other details:  Published 2011. Hardcopy is available.


Forest harvesting operations that use portable chipping systems to generate biomass chips from logging residue are currently in use in British Columbia. Leaving deposits of residual materials after harvest has been completed can reduce productivity and affect soil hydrologic function. We summarize the research on the effects of chipped woody material accumulations, and then interpret these findings within the British Columbia context and provide guidance for best management practices to maintain long-term site productivity. Soils in cooler climates, on fine-textured soils, and/or with a high water table are at a greater risk of detrimental effects than well-drained, coarse-textured soils in warmer environments. Integration of conventional and biomass harvesting can reduce repeated equipment traffic on forest sites. Care should be taken to ensure that biomass harvesting operations do not result in site organic matter levels that are below requirements in existing guidance documents, guidelines, and regulations. Placing chipped material directly into containers used to transport chips to the processing facility, or using heavy tarps to create temporary chip storage containers can maximize biomass recovery and avoid creation of residual piles on future forest sites. To facilitate tree regeneration and forage production, large accumulations of materials need to be removed or redistributed so that the resulting soil mulch of woody material is discontinuous and preferably < 8 cm in depth.

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Updated February 15, 2011