Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science - Environmental Sciences


Environmental Science

First Advisor

Jeremy Stovall

Second Advisor

Hans Williams

Third Advisor

Kenneth Farrish


While land reclamation efforts of surface mines have considerably increased soil stability since the implementation of SMCRA (Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act), research suggests that resulting soil compaction hinders the productivity of forests post-mining. The Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) was developed to improve forest health in the Appalachian region through a five-step process that minimizes soil compaction and establishes a productive forest. The FRA has not yet been tested in the western Gulf Coastal Plain (GCP). The higher clay content of some GCP soils and the dearth of coarse fragments (e.g. cobbles, stones and boulders) may affect reclamation practices and the ability of these methods to create productive forests. Compaction caused by conventional reclamation methods in the GCP has not been studied in great detail. Thus, this study attempts to provide a comparison of two reclamation methods, the FRA low-compaction method used in the Appalachian region with that of conventional scraper-pan (scraper) methods in the GCP.

This study used the FRA with common silvicultural practices of the western Gulf. The two hectare study site was installed with a randomized complete block design with three replicates comparing conventional scraper reclamation used in the region with that of an unmined control and the FRA-style low compaction treatment. Following soil reclamation, containerized loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) seedlings of a western Gulf provenance were hand-planted. Soil chemical and physical parameters were assessed on each treatment to determine the effect the FRA and scraper method had on resulting tree seedling growth and survival.

After three growing seasons, seedlings in the FRA plots had significantly higher tree volumes than both the scraper (p=0.0139) and the control (p=0.0247) treatments. The FRA plots also had a 97% survival rate, while scraper plots had a survival of 86%. The FRA plots had significantly lower soil bulk densities than the scraper (p=0.0353) and the control (p<0.0001) which likely influenced growth and survival trends. Soil nutrients were increasingly available on the FRA and scraper plots, likely due to the mixing of the soil profile when compared to the unmined control. Leaf-level water potential and gas exchange were not correlated to growth and survival and did not differ among treatments. These results suggest reclamation practices modeled after FRA methods may benefit tree growth and survival in the Western Gulf.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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