Soil Restoration

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Industrial development results in severe modification of the surface of the earth, the complete destruction of topsoils, and the reshaping of subsoil and even bedrock. Restoration of a new surface begins with and depends on the reconstruction and re-initiation of soil structures and processes.


  • Norman et al 1997 described best practices for reclamation of surface mines, a situation similar to many large scale excavation sites for river and stream restoration. This appears to be the most recent state policy analysis over reconstruction of soil on severely damaged sites.
    • [sec 4.5] The type of vegetation planned for reclamation may dictate soil replacement depth. Deeper soils will be needed for agricultural production or establishing trees, particularly for timber production. More important than the depth of the replaced soil is how replacement is done. Soils should not be compacted. The less equipment is run over soils, the better. The most skilled and experienced equipment operators should be used for soil replacement—their skill will pay off.
    • Topsoil should be replaced on slopes as soon as possible after restoring topography. Soil horizons from stockpiles should be replaced separately in the proper order for best use of the resource. After the topsoil is spread, it should be tilled to construct a proper seed bed.
    • A minimum soil replacement depth of 12 inches of topsoil is recommended for reclamation for most post-mine uses. Upland sites may have soil depths, prior to mining, of 6 inches or less. On these sites, reject soil fines and rock fines produced during rock processing may be used to supplement pre-existing soil resources as a growth medium. Generally fines would be mixed with organic material and put in place before the topsoil is added. The minimum recommended soil depth for timber production is 4 feet over rock and 2 feet over gravel or soft overburden to establish an effective rooting depth of 4 feet. Timber growth rates are generally directly related to the depth of the soil available.
  • Moffat & Bending 2000 soil restoration loose tipping describes methods for soil placement to minimize compaction.