Tasmania’s largest plantation forest manager, Forico, is looking to minimise its impact on soil this World Soil Day, employing new methods to test plantation areas before and after harvest.

Forico manages 173,000 hectares of land throughout Tasmania, of which 90,000 hectares is plantation resource managed for wood fibre production, and 77,000 hectares is natural forest managed for its biodiversity and conservation values.

Forico’s Sustainability Manager, Simon Cook, said the company was taking advantage of emerging technologies and actively investing in RD&I to explore the role soil played in sustainable forestry.

“We are conscious of the role soils have in protecting biodiversity through the ability to maintain and enhance various populations of plants and animals,” Mr Cook said.

“We have engaged the services of local ecologists to undertake assessments, specifically within natural forest areas, to gain a better understanding of the vegetation condition.

“A healthy forest is primarily due to the underlying healthy and fertile soils. The vegetation condition assessments consider all levels of a forests structure – from ground cover herb and grass species, to shrubs and the trees within the canopy.

“We understand that soils within the plantations and native forest also support dens for species like the Tasmanian Devil and Quolls and provide foraging habitats for animals and birds alike.

“The whole ecosystem needs to be protected, and soil is the foundation in achieving this goal,” Mr Cook said.

Plantation Operations and Services Manager, Jim Wilson, said Forico had instituted an innovative approach for site preparation and establishment activities that has been termed ‘precision forestry’.

“Looking after the soil makes good business sense. We are using science to make decisions about what inputs we engage at each and every forest site,” Mr Wilson said.

“If the science tells us that soil cultivation is not required prior to planting tree seedlings then we leave it alone.”

The data used to assess soil density and quality is captured using a newly purchased device called a penetrometer.

“A specific management recipe for each site ensures the soils are protected from unnecessary impacts, and we find that our soils actually improve over time under a forest management regime,” Mr Wilson said.

World Soil Day 2020 is celebrated on 5 December. Its campaign, "Keep soil alive, Protect soil biodiversity", aims to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, fighting soil biodiversity loss, increasing soil awareness and encouraging governments, organisations, communities and individuals around the world to commit to proactively improving soil health.