Amelioration of degraded soils under red pine plantations on the Oak Ridges Moraine, Ontario

McPherson, T. S. and Timmer, V. R., 2002. Canadian Journal of Soil Science

Original research (primary data)
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Soil degradation and subsequent amelioration were studied on soil chronosequences of old-growth forest, abandoned fields, and young and mature conifer plantations on the Oak Ridges Moraine, an environmentally vulnerable landform near Toronto threatened by encroaching urban development. The chronosequences reflect a history of pre-settlement deforestation, exploitive pioneer agriculture and ensuing land abandonment that led to soil fallowing and/or wind erosion in the 1920s followed by soil stabilization after extensive planting with red pine (Pinus resinosa Ait.). Key pedogenic processes were identified and rates and magnitude of soil recovery were quantified in terms of morphological, physical and chemical characteristics of soil profiles. Soil degradation generally involved reduced fertility with profile simplification (haploidization) on non-eroded fallowed fields, and topsoil loss by wind erosion (deflation) on more exposed eroded fields. After reforestation, soil restoration was characterized by cessation of erosion, accelerated horizon development and differentiation, reduced soil bulk density, and increased fertility and acidification of the soil. Chronofunctions revealed substantial recovery in soil organic C, total N, available P, and exchangeable K, Ca and Mg status within 75 yr of initial reforestation on non-deflated, fallowed sites. In contrast, estimated recovery of these parameters on severely deflated sites was delayed far beyond plantation maturity.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-131-1
  • Intervention type: Restoration
  • Intervention description:

    Reforestation: Native red pine (Pinus resinosa Ait.) seedlings were most commonly plant- ed, because of the relative tolerance of this species to dry and nutrient poor conditions ... Young Plantations were <55 yr old and generally lacked understorey vegetation, and Mature Plantations were >60 yr old and supported vigorous deciduous understorey vegetation

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: No
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Reduced soil quality  Positive Soil bulk density, organic C levels, N/K/P levels, pH, Ca, Mg
    Soil erosion  Positive Soil horizon depth
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    Oak Ridges Moraine, Southern Ontario

  • Country: Canada
  • Habitat/Biome type: Temperate forests |
  • Issue specific term: Not applicable


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: Effectiveness determined by comparing to unvegetated sites that represent what the site would have been like before the intervention so not exactly a control per se.
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: No
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Not reported
  • Ecosystem measures:
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: No
  • Impacts for people: Not reported
  • People measures:
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Quantitative
  • Is it experimental: No
  • Experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Empirical case study
  • Study is systematic: