Working Backwards: Enhancing Forest Restoration by Reversing Effects of Reclamation on Soil Bulk Density04/15/2020
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is readily accessible and located only 15 miles from Kent State University. My study focuses on one of more than 40 legacy mines in the park. Before the 1970’s, these mines were used for gravel to build nearby highways. After mining, reclamation efforts were minimal. Industrial rollers were used to compress the soil in an effort to stop nutrient runoff and prevent further pollution. Although this brought life back to the sites, the compaction made it nearly impossible to grow woody plants due to inability to spread roots. Recently the National Park Service and Kent State has become interested in reintroducing hardwood trees to return these sites to their natural form. The national park adopted a soil ripping method to reduce the soil bulk density to allow roots to expand and grow. Large shanks were dug into the ground and “ripped” through the soil in a 2x2 meter grid pattern throughout the field site. To determine its effectiveness, we dug pits and took soil bulk densities at varying depths to 60cm. The bulk density of the soil was generally lower in the rips than in the non-rips at depths deeper than 20cm. This helped to reverse the previous compaction resulting from land remediation. The lower bulk densities lead us to believe that the roots of hardwood trees will penetrate soils easier in the rips than in the non-rips. We hope that this soil ripping technique will have a lasting positive effect on the root penetration of our trees.