Excavator RipPlow

Project Abstract

Forest fragmentation results from a variety of forestry and conventional energy sector disturbances that have numerous ecological consequences when not effectively reforested. Restoring sustainable forest communities on these sites is paramount with regards to current concerns and plans to restore caribou habitat. Unfortunately, poor soil quality and micro-sites for seedling development caused by trafficking has, and is, limiting reforestation and poor juvenile growth on many sites. Previous projects are showing effective ecological soil restoration practices that includes deep soil tillage must be coupled with appropriate reforestation practice to achieve the effective restoration of forest cover on non-regenerated sites. This project will adapt a recently developed and tested, deep tillage implement for bulldozers for use on tracked excavators. When use on an excavator, one machine and attachment is expected to restore soil quality and create micro-sites needed for reforestation or natural regeneration, an block access of narrow linear disturbances as appropriate in one pass. The effectiveness and efficiency of the excavator attachment will be measured and best management practices identified. Ecological soil restoration with the implement should also enable the impacted sites to regenerate to a more resilient forest cover, and regenerate similar to the adjacent forest if burned in a wildfire.

For more info: Ecological Restoration of Forest Soils AI Project #2470 Jan 2019.pdf

ForestSoil Science Ltd. (FSL)

Was established as an Alberta corporation in 2004 with the objective of providing the scientific, operational research, and professional expertise of Dave McNabb regarding the management and restoration of forest and soil resources. The primary objectives are developing more cost efficient and ecological effective practices to reduce industrial impacts to soil, and new practices and implements for the ecological restoration of machine trafficked soils.

Research in the early 1990s had produced new concepts for how to more effectively restore soil on severely impacted summer logging roads.  The most extreme practice unexpectedly demonstrated how to rapidly extend the soil freezing and thawing process deep into forest soil after one winter. The result was a highly effective process for enhancing the natural ecological processes of deep soil restoration. (left: 22-yr-old lodgepole pine on summer logging road)

Based on these principles, early FSL projects led to the development of more effective and efficient technologies and practices for the physical restoration of soil for a wide range of up-stream energy and forestry soil disturbances. Core funding was initially provided by Alberta Forest Research Institute and field support was provided by Weyerhaeuser Canada and Burlington Resources/ConocoPhillips. Three years of testing led to the development of RipPlows for dozers (right) based on a set of ecological principles that guided the development. The unique design is covered by Canada and US patents. RipPlows are sold by FSL, including training as to their most efficient and effective use.

The testing refined and confirmed the principles for using an ecological approach to soil restoration. This practice in conjunction with established reforestation principles have recently been confirmed on the first wellsites to be plowed (Left: 12-yr-old planted lodgepole pine with unplowed soil in center of photo. Alberta Innovates Project #2470). Initial survival and early growth pine are excellent on the plowed soil while the unplowed soil was too compacted to plant. The pine understory includes some dominant aspen from seed, understory white spruce and shrubs from seed, and the beginning development of a natural forest floor. At this time, the site is supporting a dynamic, sustainable forest cover, which will also enable the site to adapt to future forest disturbances like the surrounding forest.

About Dave McNabb

Dave McNabb has a BScF in Forest Management, a MSc. In Forest Soils, and a PhD in Soil Science with a minor in soil engineering. He has 50 years of academic, government, and industrial research and technology transfer experience in areas of forest soils and productivity, machine/soil interaction, soil restoration, and reforestation. (Left: another 12-yr-old wellsite, Alberta Innovates #2470)

Between 1978-89, Dave was a member of the faculty of Forest Engineering, Oregon State University, where he was an Extension Watershed Specialist working with other specialists on applied research and extension projects in southwest Oregon. He contributed several forest soil management and reforestation projects.

Between 1990-2002, he worked at the Alberta Environment Centre (later transferred to the Alberta Research Council), first as a scientist and then as a manager. Major projects included bioremediation of hydrocarbon contaminated soils, the Alberta Forest Soil Compaction Project, and project leader of a group integrating digital imagery and LiDAR data.

Scientific Contributions:

  • 40+ peer-reviewed scientific papers
  • 70+ Other papers, reports, and invited presentations
  • Renewable Resources, University of Alberta: 2011-18, lecturer for Forest Harvesting and Transportation. Ongoing, guest lecturer on forest soil restoration and soil physics.

Publication list Feb 2019.docx

David H. McNabb, PhD, RPF(AB)
ForestSoil Science Ltd.
Edmonton, Alberta

Recent and Current Projects:

  • Research on soil failures under tracked forestry machines as a function of slope and soil wetness (ongoing).
  • Alberta Innovates Demonstration Project #2470 Includes demonstration of a RipPlow for use on tracked excavators for a wider range of sites and terrain.
  • Assessing the risk of tracked equipment losing traction on steep slopes. Operations Group, FPInnovations, Vancouver, BC.