Review of the Effects of Storage on Topsoil Quality

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  • A review of pertinent literature was conducted to examine the effects of long term storage on topsoil quality in Alberta in order to determine optimum storage methods and periods of storage. Exhaustive computer data searches were conducted to establish the literature base, which was subsequently collected, categorized, and thoroughly examined. In addition to the literature review, a survey of appropriate Alberta companies and government services was conducted to focus on the Alberta experience. The effects of topsoil storage on soil quality was examined with respect to soil chemistry, soil physics, soil biology, and soil zone. These effects were directly applied to current Alberta topsoil storage practices in the mining, oil and gas, and aggregate industries. Conclusions from the literature review indicated that topsoil storage does not appear to have any severe and long term effect on topsoil quality. Chemical changes can be rectified with the judicious use of chemical fertilizers or manure. Physical changes appear to be potentially less serious than changes in soil quality associated with stripping and re-spreading operations. Soil biota revert to pre-disturbance levels of activity within predictable time frames, a knowledge of which will assist in storage pile design. The primary recommendation for improvement of topsoil storage in Alberta pertains to native pasture and forestry post industrial land use. The soil biota for such areas can be maintained in a highly viable state if storage piles are broad and shallow to maintain aeration, and the use of agrochemicals is carefully considered so as not to destroy soil biota by overuse of fertilizers and herbicides. For cultivated agriculture and industrial plantsite areas, current storage practices comply with recommendations within the report. Once again, however, precautions with respect to herbicide use should be considered.

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