Forest restoration often includes thinning to reduce tree density and improve ecosystem processes and function while also reducing the risk of wildfire or insect and disease outbreaks. However, one drawback of these restoration treatments is that slash is often burned in piles that may damage the soil and require further restoration activities. Pile burning is currently used on many forest sites as the preferred method for residue disposal because piles can be burned at various times of the year and are usually more controlled than broadcast burns. In many cases, fire can be beneficial to site conditions and soil properties, but slash piles, with a large concentration of wood, needles, forest floor, and sometimes mineral soil, can cause long-term damage. We describe several alternative methods for reducing nonmerchantable forest residues that will help remove excess woody biomass, minimize detrimental soil impacts, and create charcoal for improving soil organic matter and carbon sequestration.
AUTHOR Deborah S. Page-Dumroese
Deborah is a Supervisory Research Soil Scientist at the Rocky Mountain Research Station for USDA Forest Service. She is based in Moscow, Idaho.