Topsoil Stripping in Potentially Arable Forested Luvisols: A Literature Review

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  • The objective of this literature review was to evaluate the available information on the effects of stripping versus not stripping topsoil during pipeline construction in potentially arable Luvisolic soils in forested areas. A profile description representative of an undisturbed Luvisol under native forest vegetation was studied to identify potential problems in terms of soil quality and soil handling associated with the soil.
    A review of the literature indicates there is little information on topsoil handling techniques during pipeline construction for forested areas considered arable. However, a review of related literature suggests that topsoil stripping of forested soils and its subsequent replacement would result in horizon characteristics similar to those of the plough depth resulting from farming practices. Removal and subsequent replacement of the subsoil is expected to result in a decrease in bulk density. This should improve hydraulic conductivity and aeration thereby allowing deeper root penetration for better moisture and nutrient extraction from the soil. Subsoil replacement is not expected to result in dramatic changes in particle size distribution , exchangeable cation concentration , total nitrogen or total organic carbon . An increase in pH could occur if calcium carbonate is brought up from the Ck horizon .
    With no topsoil salvage , an increase in surface bulk density, pH and clay content is anticipated. Mixing of topsoil and subsoil would most likely result in altered physical properties similar to those previously discussed for removal and subsequent replacement of subsoil. Incorporation of organic matter from leaf litter and silt from the Ae horizon is not expected to change subsoil characteristics dramatically.
    Although the discussion of potential impacts of pipeline construction on Luvisolic soils suggests that topsoil conservation may not be necessary, there are in sufficient relevant data in the available literature to clearly substantiate this conclusion. Further investigations are needed to ascertain the effect of stripping versus not stripping topsoil in forested areas considered arable.

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    TransCanada Pipelines Ltd.