Soil Conservation

Soils are included as a key resource value under the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA).

Soil conservation research is being conducted in an effort to make sure the provincial government is achieving objectives for soil productivity as specified by FRPA.

Provincial forest management strives to be consistent with FRPA objectives. Soil conservation research is aimed at improving scientific understanding of how this can best be achieved. Ongoing soils research in all areas of the province addresses a wide variety of issues affecting natural resource management.

Long-Term Soil Productivity Study

The underlying assumption being tested in the long-term soil productivity (LTSP) research study is that forest management practices that alter soil porosity and site organic matter can lead to undesirable changes in site productivity (biomass production). The LTSP study:

  1. Determines the effects of different levels of organic matter (above-ground biomass and forest floor) retention and soil compaction on long-term forest soil productivity on a range of sites and ecological conditions.

  2. Studies the long-term effects of organic matter removal and soil compaction on soil nutrient status, soil physical properties, soil microclimate, soil biological activity, biodiversity of soil organisms, and nutrient cycling.

  3. Identifies causal relationships between soil properties that are altered by soil disturbance and long-term forest productivity.

  4. Investigates the influence of ecosystem unit on the effects of soil disturbance on long-term soil productivity.

  5. Provides research sites for detailed studies into forest soils, nutrient cycling, forest productivity, and reclamation.

  6. Provides sites that illustrate the effects of soil disturbance on forest productivity for extension/demonstration purposes.

  7. Extends the results to operations, resource management, and policy evolution to demonstrate and ensure sustainable forest development


The long-term soil productivity (LTSP) study was established to demonstrate how alteration of soil porosity and organic matter affects soil processes and site productivity in B.C. forests. In B.C. there are LTSP study sites in Skeena, Omineca, Cariboo, Kootenay-Boundary, Northeast and Thompson-Okanagan regions.

The experimental design is a 3 x 3 factorial with 3 levels of organic matter removal and 3 levels of soil compaction. There are three replicate blocks in the Sub-boreal Spruce (SBS) biogeoclimatic zone with one replicate in each of the Skeena, Omineca, and Cariboo Natural Resource Regions. The replicated site in the Boreal White and Black Spruce (BWBS) zone is in the Northeast Region. The fully replicated Interior Douglas-fir (IDF) zone installation on common, acidic forest soil is in the Thompson Okanagan Region. The fully replicated IDF installation on calcareous soils is in the Kootenay Boundary Region. Two replicates are being installed in the Interior Cedar Hemlock (ICH) zone to complete an installation initiated by the USDA Forest Service in Idaho.

The LTSP is a full rotation length study of the impacts of soil disturbance on site productivity, therefore short-term responses to soil disturbance treatments need to be interpreted with caution. The LTSP is the only replicated long-term study of soil productivity and the effects of soil disturbance in the world. The Long-Term Soil Productivity program is the world's largest co-ordinated effort to understand how soil disturbance affects long-term forest productivity. To be competitive in the global market, BC must demonstrate that it is carrying out research on the impacts of site disturbance on forest productivity. To better manage the forest resource and to incorporate science into decision making, BC must invest in long-term studies that provide concrete results that can be applied to the refinement of forest practices, regulations, guidebooks, and 'best management practices'.

  • In the SBS, there has been little effect of the treatments on lodgepole pine growth, which averaged only 6% difference in volume across all treatments.  White spruce, in contrast, often had large growth increases on forest floor retained – compacted plots (average of 63% gain), but reductions in productivity on the forest floor removed – compacted plots (40% decline).  Foliar nitrogen concentrations converged across treatments for both species, despite the removal of over 50% of the site N capital.  An assessment of ground beetle, understory plant, and ectomycorrhizal fungal response to soil disturbance in the SBS found that forest floor removal, and to a lesser degree, compaction significantly altered soil biotic communities.  Some losses in ecological integrity after severe soil disturbances, along with the spread of invasive plants, merit concern in managing these ecosystems.
  • In the BWBS, where forest floor was retained, both aspen and white spruce were significantly taller on the treatments with the least amount of soil disturbance. Compacted soils remain at levels where reduced tree growth can be expected.
  • In the IDF Thompson-Okanagan, Douglas-fir establishment was difficult on drier and frost-prone sites but was improved by removal of the forest floor. In contrast, lodgepole pine had excellent establishment regardless of treatment. Pl grew much faster than fir reaching 1m in height by Year-5 as compared to Fdi that was 0.3m at Year-5 and not hitting the 1-m mark until Year-10. For the first 15 years of the experiment there has been no significant effect of either the organic matter or compaction treatments on height of Pl or Fdi. However, early evaluation and analysis of a portion of the Year-20 data has revealed a possible organic matter x compaction treatment effect on growth.
  • In the IDF on calcareous soils, persistent biological soil crusts were observed on forest floor removal plots that appear to be affecting revegetation and water relations. Forest floor removal plots experience drought conditions three to six weeks earlier compared to treatment plots where forest floors were retained. Douglas-fir survival was better on plots with forest floor removal, presumably due to mitigation of frost, but overall growth has been affected.
  • On the sandy soils in the ICH, Douglas-fir survival and growth has been severely affected by forest floor removal – presumably due to more severe drought. Ecophysiology studies on lodgepole pine in the IDF demonstrated how it does not shutdown during drought and hence can be susceptible to die back during severe droughts, fortunately this has not occurred on the sites being studied. Brushing was carried out for the first 10 years on half of each treatment plot, with positive results in most cases, especially where western white pine blister rust causes mortality.
  • The overall benefits to BC's forest sector of the Long-Term Soil Productivity Study will include increased certainty about soil disturbance and site productivity so that undue detrimental disturbance can be avoided, and non-detrimental disturbance can avoid censure. The LTSP serves as a formal test for soil conservation policies, and also serves to demonstrate B.C.’s commitment to sustainable resource management.
  • Our interim results have confirmed that sites and species respond differently to the same disturbance and that soil properties change over time after disturbance. This supports the need to establish and monitor the LTSP study over a range of species and sites and over the long-term. Ongoing monitoring of these research installations is being carried out to ensure timely response to meet information needs in BC’s natural resource sector.
  • The LTSP experiment is responding to new information needs by expanding and enhancing our focus on soil carbon, a key factor in responding to climate change.  

Site number

Site name

Natural Resource Region





40 km N of Dawson Creek


Log Lake


65 km N of Prince George




12 km N of Topley


Skulow Lake


30 km E of Williams Lake


Dairy Creek

Thompson Okanagan

30 km NW of Kamloops


Black Pines

Thompson Okanagan

50 km N of Kamloops


O'Connor Lake

Thompson Okanagan

40 km N of Kamloops

IDF Nel-1

Mud Creek

Kootenay Boundary

70 km N of Cranbrook

IDF Nel-2

Emily Creek

Kootenay Boundary

80 km N of Cranbrook

IDF Nel-3

Kootenay East

Kootenay Boundary

75 km N of Cranbrook


Rover Creek

Kootenay Boundary

15 km W of Nelson


McPhee Creek*

Kootenay Boundary

5 km E of Castlegar

Technical Note 122 . Long-term Soil Productivity Study: the Effects of Soil Compaction and Organic matter Removal on Long-term Soil Productivity in British Columbia (E.P. 1148): Establishment Report.

LTSPS Research Note 01 Second year response of plant communities; The SBS Long-term Soil Productivity Study

LTSPS Research Note 02 Fourth Year Responses of Aspen and White Spruce; The BWBS Long-Term Soil Productivity Study

LTSPS Research Note 03 Fourth-Year Plant Community Responses: The BWBS Long-Term Soil Productivity Study

LTSPS Research Note 04 Nutrient Removals in Woody Biomass: Preliminary Estimates from the Sub-Boreal Spruce Long-Term Soil Productivity Study

LTSPS Research Note 05 Soil Fauna in the Sub-Boreal Spruce (SBS) Installations of the Long-Term Soil Productivity (LTSP) Study of Central British Columbia: One-Year Results for Soil Mesofauna and Macrofauna

LTSPS Research Note 06 Aspen and white spruce responses to organic matter removal and soil compaction in the BWBS Long-Term Soil Productivity Study

LTSPS Research Note 07   Short-term Effects of Forest Soil Compaction and Site Organic Matter Removal on Mineralizable Soil Nitrogen in Central British

LTSPS Research Note 08 Establishment of Long-term Soil Productivity Studies on Acidic Soils in the Interior Douglas-fir Zone.

The Long-Term Soil Productivity Study in British Columbia. FRDA report 256.

Soil compaction and soil organic matter loss: criteria for long-term soil productivity. Poster presented at 2003 North America Forest Soils Conference.

Wilhelm RC, Cardenas E, Maas KR, Leung H, McNeil L, Berch S, Chapman W, Hope G, Kranabetter JM, Dubé S, Busse M, Fleming R, Hazlett P, Webster KL, Morris D, Scott DA and Mohn WW. 2017. Biogeography and organic matter removal shape long-term effects of timber harvesting on forest soil microbial communities. The ISME Journal 1–17

Kranabetter, J.M., Haeussler, S., and Wood, C. 2017. Vulnerability of boreal indicators (ground beetles, understory plants and ectomycorrhizal fungi) to severe soil disturbance. Forest Ecology and Management 402: 213-222.

Kranabetter, J.M., Dube, S, and Lilles E.B. 2017. An investigation into the contrasting growth response of lodgepole pine and white spruce to harvest-related soil disturbance. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 47: 340-348.

Cardenas E, Kranabetter JM, Hope G, Maas KR, Hallam S, and Mohn WW. 2015. Forest harvesting reduces the soil metagenomic potential for biomass decomposition. The ISME Journal 1–12

Reid AM, Chapman, WK, Kranabetter, JM, and Prescott, CE. 2015. Response of lodgepole pine health to soil disturbance treatments in British Columbia, Canada. Can. J. For. Res. 45: 1045–1055

Kabzems, R. 2012. Aspen and white spruce productivity is reduced by organic matter removal and soil compaction. Forestry Chronicle 88: 306-316.

Ponder, F. Jr., Fleming, R.L., Berch, S., Busse, M.D., Elioff, J.D. Hazlett, P.W., Kabzems, R.D., Kranabetter, J.M., Morris, D.M., Page-Dumroese, D., Palik, B.J., Powers, R.F., Sanchez, F.G., Scott, D.A., Stagg, R.H., Stone, D.M., Young, D.H., Zhang, J., Ludovici, K.H., McKenney, D.W., Mossa, D.S., Sanborn, P.T., Voldseth, R.A. 2012. Effects of organic matter removal, soil compaction and vegetation control on 10th year biomass and foliar nutrition: LTSP continent-wide comparisons. Forest Ecology and Management 278: 35-54.

Hartmann, M., Howes, C.G., VanInsberghe, D., Yu, H., Bachar,D. Christen, R., Nilsson, R.H., Hallam, S,J., and Mohn, W.H. 2012. Significant and persistent impact of timber harvesting on soil microbial communities in Northern coniferous forests, Isme J. 6: 2199–2218.

Hartmann, M., Lee, S., Hallam, S.J., Mohn, W.W. 2009. Bacterial, archaeal and eukaryal community structures throughout soil horizons of harvested and naturally disturbed forest stands. Environ. Microbiol. 11: 3045-3062.

Tan, X., M.P. Curran, S.X. Chang, and D.G. Maynard. 2009. Early growth responses of lodgepole pine and Douglas-fir to soil compaction, organic matter removal, and rehabilitation treatments in southeastern British Columbia. For. Sci. 55: 210-220.

Tan, X., S.X. Chang, and R. Kabzems. 2008. Soil compaction and forest floor removal reduced microbial biomass and enzyme activities in a boreal aspen forest soil. Biol Fertil Soils 44: 471–479.

Arocena, J.M., Chen, Z., and Sanborn, P. 2008. Soil microstructure and solution chemistry of a compacted forest soil in a Sub-boreal Spruce zone in Canada. In Kapur, S. et al. (eds.) New Trends in Soil Micromorphology. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. pp. 253-270.

Fleming, R.L., R.F. Powers, N.W. Foster, J.M. Kranabetter, D.A. Scott, S. Berch, W. Chapman, R.D. Kabzems, K. Ludovici, D.M. Morris, F. Ponder, D.S. Page-Dumroese, P. Sanborn, F.G. Sanchez, D.M. Stone, and A.E. Tiarks. 2006. Effects of organic matter removal and soil compaction on seedling performance: Response after 5 years on the LTSP sites. Can. J. For. Res. 36: 529-550.

Kranabetter, JM, Sanborn, P, Chapman, WK and S Dubé. 2006. The contrasting response to soil disturbance between lodgepole pine and hybrid white spruce in sub-boreal forests. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 70:1591-1599.

Mariani, L., S.X. Chang and R. Kabzems. 2006. Effects of tree harvesting, forest floor removal, and compaction on soil microbial biomass, microbial respiration, and N availability in a boreal aspen forest in British Columbia. Soil Biol. Biochem. 38: 1734-1744.

Tan, X., Kabzems, R., and Chang, S.X. 2006. Response of forest vegetation and foliar δ13C and δ15N to soil compaction and forest floor removal in a boreal aspen forest. Forest Ecology and Management 222: 450–458.

Page-Dumroese, DS, Jurgensen, MF, Tiarks, AE, Ponder, Jr., F, Sanchez, FG, Fleming, RL, Kranabetter, JM, Powers, RF, Stone, DM, Elioff, JD, and Scott, DA. 2006. Soil physical property changes at the North American Long-Term Soil Productivity study sites: 1 and 5 years after compaction. Can. J. For. Res. 36: 551-564.

Sanchez, FG, Tiarks, AE, Kranabetter, JM, Page-Dumroese, DS, Powers, RF, Sanborn, PT, and Chapman, WK. 2006. Effects of organic matter removal and soil compaction on fifth-year mineral soil carbon and nitrogen contents for sites across the United States and Canada. Can J For Res 36: 565-576.

Choi, W-J., S.X. Chang, M.P. Curran, and H-M. Ro. 2005. Foliar δ13C and δ15N response of lodgepole pine and Douglas-fir seedlings to soil compaction and forest floor removal. For. Sci. 51: 546-555.

Curran, M.P., R.E. Miller, S. W Howes, D.G. Maynard, T.A. Terry, R.L. Heninger, T. Niemann, K. van Rees, R.F. Powers, and S.H. Shoenholtz. 2005. Progress towards more uniform assessment and reporting of soil disturbance for operations, research and sustainability protocols. For. Ecol. and Mgmt. 220: 17-30.

Haeussler, S., and R. Kabzems. 2005. Aspen plant community response to organic matter removal and soil compaction. Can J For Res 35: 2030-2044.

Kabzems, T., and S. Haeussler. 2005. Soil properties, aspen, and white spruce responses 5 years after organic matter removal and compaction treatments. Can. J. For. Res. 35: 2045-2055.

Kamaluddin, M., S.X. Chang, M.P. Curran, and J.J. Zwiazek. 2005. Soil compaction and forest floor removal affect early growth and physiology of lodgepole pine and Douglas-fir in British Columbia. For. Sci. 51: 513-521.

Tan, X, S.X. Chang and R. Kabzems. 2005. Effects of soil compaction and forest floor removal on soil microbial properties and N transformations in a boreal forest long-term soil productivity study. For. Ecol. Mgmt. 217:158-170.

Battigelli, J.P., John R. Spence, David W. Langor, and Shannon M. Berch. 2004. Short-term impact of forest soil compaction and organic matter removal on soil mesofauna density and oribatid mite diversity. Can. J. For. Res. 34: 1136-1149.

Kranabetter, J. M., and Chapman, B. K. 2004. An analysis of litter nitrogen dynamics using artificial soils across a gradient of forest soil disturbances. Can. J. Soil Sci. 84: 159-167.

Axelrood, P.E., M.L. Chow, C.C. Radomski, J.M. McDermott, and J. Davies. 2002. Molecular characterization of bacterial diversity from British Columbia forest soils subjected to disturbance. Can. J. Microbiol. 48: 655-674.

Axelrood, P.E., M.L. Chow, C.S. Arnold, K. Lu, J.M. McDermott, and J. Davies. 2002. Cultivation-dependant characterization of bacterial diversity from British Columbia forest soils subjected to disturbance. Can. J. Microbiol. 48: 643-654.

Chow, M.L., C.C. Radomski, J.M. McDermott, J. Davies, and P.E. Axelrood. 2002. Molecular characterization of bacterial diversity in lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) rhizosphere soils from British Columbia forest soils differing in disturbance and geographic source. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 42: 347-357.

Haeussler, S., L. Bedford, A. Leduc, Y. Bergeron, and J.M. Kranabetter. 2002. Silvicultural disturbance severity and plant communities of the southern Canadian boreal forest. Silva Fennica 36: 307-327.

Stone, D.M. and R. Kabzems. 2002. Aspen development on similar soils in Minnesota and British Columbia after compaction and forest floor removal. For. Chron. 78: 886-891.

Arocena, J.M. 2000. Cations in solution form forest soil subjected to forest floor removal and compaction treatments. Forest Ecology and Management 133: 71-80.

Conlin, T.S.S., and R. van den Driessche. 2000. Response of soil CO2 and O2 concentrations to forest soil compaction at the Long-term Soil Productivity sites in central British Columbia. Can. J. Soil Sci. 80: 625-632.

Arocena, J.M., and P. Sanborn. 1999. Mineralogy and genesis of selected soils and their implications for forest management in central and northeastern British Columbia. Can. J. Soil Sc. 79:571-592.

Kranabetter, J.M. and Chapman, B.K. 1999. Effects of forest soil compaction and organic matter removal on leaf litter decomposition in central British Columbia. Can. J. Soil Sci. 79: 543-550.