• Tracked vehicle impacts to vegetation structure and soil erodibility

      Grantham, W. P.; Redente, E. F.; Bagley, C. F.; Paschke, M. W. (Society for Range Management, 2001-11-01)
      There has been increasing concern that training on military lands results in excessive soil erosion, ecosystem degradation, and loss of sustainable training resources. Vegetation structure has been shown to play a role in soil surface stabilization by reducing shear stress caused by wind force. A study at the Idaho Army National Guard training facility at Orchard Training Area (OTA), Ida. assessed the effect of simulated M1A2 Abrams battletank maneuvers on grassland plant canopies and soil erodibility. The point-intercept method was used to estimate vertical vegetation structure before and after tracking. A portable wind tunnel was used to measure threshold wind speeds (TWS) associated with different numbers of tank passes and soil mass removed by wind. Results indicated that significant damage occurred to vertical vegetation structure as the number of passes increased. Threshold wind speed, an indicator of soil surface stability, significantly decreased with tracking and eroded soil mass significantly increased. Positive correlations existed between vegetation parameters and threshold wind speed. Soil loss was negatively correlated with vegetation parameters. Results indicated that the decrease of vertical vegetation structure led to a decrease in threshold wind speed. This decrease in threshold wind speed was the result of reduced soil surface protection by vegetation. Decreased surface protection also resulted in increased soil loss. Results from this work confirmed that vegetation plays a major role in reducing shear stress on the soil surface. Predictions for soil loss at Orchard Training Area resulting from the number of M1A2 passes are made using linear models. A critical tracking threshold of 4 passes was estimated based upon model output and average local wind speeds for Orchard Training Area.