Heavy Logging Machinery Impacts Soil Physical Properties More than Nematode Communities

Kara S. Gibson, Deborah A. Neher, Nancy C. Johnson, Robert R. Parmenter, Anita J. Antoninka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Mechanized logging equipment causes considerable soil disturbance, but little information is available regarding thresholds for impacts on soil nematodes—critical members of soil foodwebs which perform important ecological functions. We examined responses of nematode communities and soil physical characteristics to the increasing number of passes (one, three, or nine) by a tracked feller buncher during thinning of a xeric mixed conifer forest in New Mexico, USA. Within and between the harvester tracks, we measured soil surface penetration resistance and shear strength, quantified bulk density at four depth increments up to a maximum depth of 27 cm, and characterized nematode assemblages in the upper 10 cm. Eight months after treatment, nematode communities were less impacted than soil physical properties by harvester passes. Total nematode abundance was unaffected by any level of feller buncher disturbance, and sensitive K-selected nematode groups were reduced only at nine passes. Conversely, soil compaction occurred with a single pass and extended deep into the soil profile to at least 23–27 cm. The first pass also decreased surface penetration resistance and shear strength, indicating disruption of soil surface structural integrity. Additional passes did not further increase bulk density or decrease surface structural integrity. Our results indicate that low levels of logging machinery traffic may have negligible effects on nematode communities, but nevertheless emphasize the importance of minimizing areas subjected to disturbance because of impacts on soil physical properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1205
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • bulk density
  • feller buncher
  • forest management
  • logging machinery
  • penetration resistance
  • shear strength
  • soil compaction
  • soil disturbance
  • soil nematodes
  • thinning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry


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