In this module, you have learnt about the importance of soil and water for forests. Many forest practices are intended to ensure that any damage to either of these attributes is minimized during forestry operations. This is because forestry is known to cause problems for both soils and water. One of the most damaging activities is road-building, and a full understanding of the potential consequences of this activity, and how to reduce the impacts, is essential for every forest manager. If a full road network already exists, then the management of the surface properties of the roads is important, as is the maintenance of any stream crossings. Most “best management practices” deals with these types of issue in detail.
Forests can be a valuable means to protect soils and water. In some areas, forests are being actively promoted as a means to reduce further soil degradation, and this largely experimental work is demonstrating that forests can be established in areas that were previously considered too dry for forests (for example in areas with ca. 300 mm annual rainfall). The area of protection forest globally is currently increasing, and with the planned afforestation of many vulnerable areas, this is set to increase.
In sustainable forest management, it is important to take a long-term view of the forest. There will be short term of repercussions of, for example, timber extraction, but it is the longer term that is important. In particular, forestry should not compromise the nutritional status of a soil, and should under no circumstances result in the loss of soil. Unfortunately, there are many instances where this has occurred in the past, resulting in strict controls being placed on forest management activities, and even in forest management being halted altogether. This is an endpoint that all forest managers need to seek to avoid.