Chapter 4. Soil and Water
Overview of Conservation and Maintenance of Soil and Water Resources
Montreal Process indicators for measuring soil and water resources
This criterion addresses several issues pertaining to soil and water resource conservation and maintenance including soil erosion; changes in soil organic matter and chemical properties; toxic substances; changes in stream flow and timing; biological diversity in water bodies; and changes in pH, chemical sedimentation, and stream temperatures.
Indicators 18, 21, and 22 assess the condition of soil resources quantified by erosion, composition of the organic materials, and soil compaction. Erosion is commonly viewed as a major threat to soil, water, and related forest and plant resources, particularly agricultural crops. Yet, in a broad ecological context, erosion is a natural process in the building up and wearing down of the land. Forest ecosystems receive much of their nitrogen and other nutrients from the decomposition and recycling of organic matter, including decayed leaves or needles, branches, fallen trees, and roots. When the soil is rich in organic matter, this attribute helps to improve water retention, maintain good soil structure, aid infiltration of water into the soil, store more carbon, and promote growth of soil organisms. Soil compaction occurs when soil particles are physically compressed, eliminating the air spaces, or pores, between the soil particles. Soil compaction is a concern because it can reduce forest growth and increase soil erosion.
Indicators 19, 20, 23, and 24 measure various aspects of the status of water resources related to the healthy functions of forest and range resources. Water is important for domestic use, irrigation, and wildlife. The area of land managed under protective designations is one indicator of the importance placed on water quality by society. Changes in stream flow and timing can cause flooding or low flows. Insufficient flows can cause stream temperatures to rise to levels that are lethal or detrimental to some species of fish. Increased peak flows, or more frequent floods or high flows, can move spawning gravels or accelerate erosion. Either increased or decreased flows could indicate a general decline in watershed health.
Indicator 25 focuses on the area and percent of forest land experiencing an accumulation of persistent toxic substances. If persistent toxic substances are present on forest lands, there is potential for groundwater contamination. Contaminated watersheds may harm fish and wildlife, people who consume the water, and general ecosystem stability within the watershed. It is important to know if there are any toxic substances on forest lands and to what extent, in order to deal with these problems appropriately.
Assessment sections summarizing Chapter 4: Soil and Water Conservation
In this Assessment, FRAP will address the criterion of soil and water conservation for California's forests and rangelands in two on-line technical reports. The Protection of Soil section assesses the health of California's soil resources. Watershed Quality and Assessment discusses the concept of "watersheds" and the importance of them for maintenaning health of the State's water resources.
Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators, 2002. Montreal Process Working Group. 1998. The Montreal Process: what is the Montreal Process? criteria and indicators. Web site accessed February 25, 2002
Roundtable on Sustainable Forests. 2002. Web site accessed February 25, 2002.
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