Rainfall Response of Degraded Soil Following Reforestation in the Copper Basin, Tennessee, USA

Harden, Carol P.; Mathews, Louise
August 2000
Environmental Management;Aug2000, Vol. 26 Issue 2, p163
Academic Journal
ABSTRACT / After a century of degradation due to mining, logging, acidification, and grazing, the 130-km2 Copper Basin in southeastern Tennessee became the site of increasingly extensive and successful reforestation efforts. To determine the effectiveness of more than 50 years of reforestation efforts, we compared rainfall infiltration, sediment detachment, and soil organic matter of reforested sites to those properties of unvegetated sites and forested reference sites outside the basin. Results of 54 rainfall simulation experiments conducted in zones of the basin known to have been planted during different decades demonstrate that hydrologic recovery of soils in the Copper Basin lags significantly behind the establishment of tree cover and the protection offered by vegetation against soil erosion. Soils in new “forests” have significantly less organic matter and lower infiltration than forests more than 50 years old. The long-term persistence of low infiltration rates serves as a reminder that, at sites where the A and B soil horizons have been lost, restoration of the hydrologic function of a landscape requires decades, at least.


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