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Compaction by a forest machine affects soil quality and Quercus robur L. seedling performance in an experimental field

Cambi, Martina, Hoshika, Yasutomo, Mariotti, Barbara, Paoletti, Elena, Picchio, Rodolfo, Venanzi, Rachele, Marchi, Enrico
Forest ecology and management 2017 v.384 pp. 406-414
Quercus robur, biodiversity, biomass, field experimentation, forest management, forest soils, forests, leaves, loam soils, nitrogen content, nutrients, photosynthesis, physiological response, porosity, resistance to penetration, roots, seedling growth, seedlings, shoots, soil compaction, soil density, soil quality, soil respiration, tractors, Italy
In recent decades, the use of heavy machinery in forest management has significantly increased, causing the compaction of forest soils and potentially affecting seedling survival and establishment. We thus investigated the effects of soil compaction on soil physical parameters, microarthropod biodiversity, soil respiration, as well as growth and physiology of Pedunculated Oak (Quercus robur) seedlings in an experimental field in central Italy (coarse loamy soil). Two levels of soil compaction were simulated, i.e. 10 tractor passes vs. 25 tractor passes. The larger number of tractor passes increased soil bulk density (+27%) and penetration resistance (+46%), while porosity declined (−11%). Compaction decreased the qualitative biodiversity of soil microarthropods (−13%), the number of growth flushes (−22%) and of leaves (−22%), shoot biomass (−26%), the shoot/root ratio (−10%), the main root length (−24%) and the longest first-order later root length in the top 10cm of soil (−31%). The decreased growth of seedlings in the soil compaction treatment was accompanied by lower photosynthetic rate (−34%) and leaf nitrogen content (−27%). We concluded that limited access and acquisition of nutrients and water due to the shorter length of main root likely played a key role for growth and physiological responses to soil compaction in Q. robur seedlings.