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Soil and Water

Conservation of soil resources is an important aspect of forest productivity.  And water quality is a major contributor to biodiversity. Protection of soil and water resources are linked here because of their connection through the hydrological cycle and nutrient cycles.


Soil disturbance and compaction may lower site productivity and influences the movement of water on and through the soil.  Movement of water and soil also moves nutrients into streams and lakes.  Planning timing and execution of forest operations can minimize soil disturbance and compaction.

The affects of erosion can be seen in countless gullies from past farming and road building.  Forestry produces less erosion than agriculture, but failure to address causes of erosion can impact soils and water. Reducing erosion can be accomplished by a) avoiding soil disturbance on steep slopes or highly erosive soils; b) prompt revegetation of disturbed soils, and c) planning, management, and retirement of forest road, trails, and landings.

  • NRCS Web Soil Survey - Enables users to select area of interest with map interface and in "Soil Data Explorer" users view soil suitability and limitations for potential uses.


Non-point source pollution describes pollution that comes from landscape activities like forestry and agricultural operations. Types of pollution include sediment and nutrients from erosion, pesticide runoff, temperature, organic matter, and trash.  The pollution degrades habitat and impacts human uses of water.  Best management practices (BMPs) are developed for Alabama that provide effective and practical recommendations for minimizing pollution. BMPs describe how to avoid pollution and to mitigate or repair damage caused during the operations.


The most important step in protecting soil and water resources during forest operations is planning.  Planning requires information about the resources and about the operation.  Most planning begins with a map or maps.

Topographic maps identify public roads, stream location and type, and slopes.  Most forest maps use the topographic map as the basic information.  Topographic maps are available from a variety of sources in both paper and electronic format from local NRCS or Alabama Forestry Commission offices.  Topographic maps for small areas can be viewed and printed from Microsoft Terraserver.  The USGS publishes a guide for using and interpreting the typical topographic map.

The topographic map and soil survey have much of the information needed for planning forest operations.  The main items that are missing are the ownership boundaries, forest stand boundaries, and forest roads.  Professional foresters are often trained to build these kind of maps.  In addition the advent of inexpensive GPS and user friendly mapping programs allow many owners to build their own simple maps. Some resources are listed here.