Effect of grading technique on forest productivity of high-value tree species in reforested surface mine lands

Grants and Contracts Details


The proposed study evaluates how final grading technique and organic soil amendments affect forest productivity on reforested surface mine lands. The proposed work builds upon research initiated by the University of Kentucky on the Starfire Mine (Knott County, KY) in 1997 to evaluate whether low compaction final grading techniques could create a more favorable growth medium for trees when compared to conventional post-SMCRA reclamation methods. The experimental approach included three final grading techniques (end dumping, strike-off, and traditional “smooth” trading) and three mulching treatments (woodchip mulch, hay and manure compost, no mulch). Within each treatment combination, replicated plantings of seven tree species were established. In the proposed study, investigators will evaluate how these grading and mulching treatments affect soil properties and tree productivity through 19 growing seasons at the Starfire research site initially established in 1997. Soil analysis will focus on how physical and chemical properties associated with the productivity potential of reclaimed mine lands are affected by grading and mulching treatments. The effect of grading and mulching treatments on the reforestation plantings will be evaluated by quantifying survival and growth trends. Analysis will include metrics critical to market and non-market valuation of the plantations such as tree size, wood volume, biomass accumulation, carbon sequestration, and the colonization of native and non-native woody plants. Potential value of reforestation plantings is influenced by soil conditions and establishment practices, but also the appropriate application of silvicultural treatments. Little information exists regarding the long-term productivity potential of mine lands reclaimed following the implementation of SMCRA. Hence, the study will evaluate the speciesspecific biomass and carbon stock trends within the reforestation plantings on the Starfire Mine. Investigators will also determine whether a significant and sustained difference is present between the strike-off or end dumping treatments. Results of the study will provide additional knowledge regarding the efficacy of grading treatments to mine operators, governmental regulators, and scientists. Examples of how this information could be utilized include the development of reclamation plans for active mining operations or reforestation recommendations developed by agencies. The study will also highlight effective reforestation methods and techniques for enhancing forest productivity during final grading as well as following stand establishment. Demonstration of techniques that enhance productivity and potential value is critical to acceptance of forestry as a post-mining land-use. In this way, the study may play a role in increasing the attractiveness of reforestation of reclaimed mine lands in the eastern coal region.
Effective start/end date6/1/1512/31/17


  • Department of the Interior: $174,765.00


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