United St*l9»
   E«v»Ofiir*nUI Projection
   ..•„; ; -.- ,
          COMPOST USE
            Chuck Henry, University of Washington

• and Karen Bergeron, King County Department of Natural Resources

                               Table of Contents

Introduction	   2
Objectives	   2
Why Use Compost and Organic Soil Amendments?  	   3
Environmental Concerns	   5
Applications in Forest Land Restoration 	   9

Elements of a Project  	   11
Obtaining Soil Amendments  	   11
Design and Permitting Process  	   13
Application Techniques  	   18
Monitoring to Assess Success  	   23

Successful Projects  	   25
Chelan Road Adjacent Cutslopes	   25
Umpqua National Forest  	   26
South Fork Snoqualmie Road Obliteration  	   27
Buffalo Creek Fire Site   	   28
Lessons Learned   	   29

Literature Cited  	   31

Additional Resources  	   33
   This document was prepared with support provided by U.S. EPA's Office of Wastewater
Management under Cooperative Agreement No. CP 830423-01.
   Special thanks go to Robert Bastian, U.S. EPA, for coordinating this effort, and for the help
from reviewers. Special thanks also go to Greg Orton, Umpqua National Forest, and Sandra
Salisbury, Washington State Department of Transportation, for sharing their projects for
inclusion in this document. David McDonald provided invaluable input to help shape this
handbook and contributed the "Lessons Learned" section.

                         EPA number: EPA832-R-05-004
                                     July 2005

July 2005                    Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration

   Federal land management agencies, including the USDA Forest Service and USDI Bureau of
Land Management, have made watershed restoration an integral part of land management. Many
past activities have had negative impacts on forested watersheds that have resulted in widespread
degradation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. These activities include logging and associated
road construction, mining, and recreational activities.

   Forest roads can have many negative impacts on forested watershed, including increasing the
magnitude and frequency of peak flows in streams and rivers, increasing the risk of landslides,
and increasing fine sediment production. Many roads needed for access and travel management
have environmental concerns. Existing roads may still be prone to surface erosion and ravel,
plugged drainage features, cutbank failures, and landslides (mass wasting). These problems may
be stabilized using soil improvement and bioengineering techniques. Other roads may no longer
be needed due to reduced timber harvest levels. Road closure and obliteration is one of the most
important methods to treat these roads. Road obliteration is the process of removing and treating
roads, resulting in partial to complete recontouring of the site with the surrounding natural

   Mining on National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands has resulted in mine
tailing piles that require remediation to mitigate environmental pollution. Many of these sites
benefit from the vegetative establishment in order to reduce erosion and restore the plant
community. The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 requires that the land be
restored in order to establish permanent vegetation that is native to the area and capable of plant

   A third type of disturbance occurs with the heavy use typical of recreational sites,
particularly camping areas, which may result in compacted soils denuded of vegetation. These
areas result in increased risk of erosion.

   The primary factors limiting the re-establishment of native plants in these environments are
poorly structured soils, the lack of water holding capacity, low soil nutrient concentrations
(especially nitrogen), and steep slopes prone to ravel. The lack of organic matter in the soils of
degraded sites may seriously limit the establishment and growth of vegetation or may hinder or
prevent succession towards mature native plant communities (Bradshaw and Chadwick 1980).

   The stated goal currently in land management Federal agencies is to cost-effectively
reproduce the natural soil conditions and promote rapid native plant establishment and growth.
The long-term goal of ecosystem restoration is best achieved through soil treatments that favor
the succession and maintenance of native plant communities. Native plant species are desirable
in the revegetation of disturbed sites because they are better adapted to local site conditions, and
to long-term survival without maintenance. These species also provide better habitat conditions
for wildlife and greater ecosystem diversity than non-native plants.

Objectives of this Handbook

   This handbook is primarily intended for use in restoration of lands disturbed by forest
management activities in the Pacific Northwest. The goal is to share information and to provide
examples of successful restoration projects using compost. Many of the ideas presented here can
be expanded for use in other environments  with consideration for local site conditions. Specific
objectives are:

   •   To increase understanding of the value of organic soil amendments in restoration of
       forest sites,

   •   To address environmental concerns about use of composts and other organic residues,

   •   To identify target forest areas which can benefit from the use of organic amendments,

July 2005
Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
    •   To provide guidance for planning and design of a project, then how to assess success of a
       project, and

    •   To present some examples of successful projects

Why Use Compost and Organic Soil Amendments

    Compost is the product of controlled decomposition of organic matter by bacteria,
actinomycetes, and fungi. Examples of organic materials typically used to produce compost
include yardwaste, manure, and biosolids. Mature compost, which has gone through a time and
temperature dependent process, is made of stable organic matter. Further decomposition by
microbes after the compost has been applied to the soil releases nutrients slowly and makes the
nutrients available for plant uptake. Compost interacts with the soil in several ways, as shown in
Figure 1.
             By changing physical soil
               properties,  improves
               aeration, holds more
             water, resists compaction
                              Reduces erosion and
                            runoff by intercepting rain
                            drops, and agregating soil
                Maintains a pH
                close to neutral
                               Supplies  slow-released
                              nutrients and helps the soil
                                    hold nutrients
                          Provides energy for
                           microbial activity
                        Figure 1. Major interactions of compost with the soil.
   Improves the physical soil characteristics

   The addition of compost to soils in restoration projects may provide many benefits over that
provided by fertilizer applications. The additon of organic matter to soil has been shown to
improve water-holding capacity, cation exchange capacity, aggregation and bulk density, buffers
pH changes, and increase microbial diversity and activity (Hudson 1994, Brady and Weil 2000,
Singer and Munns 2002). In clay textured soils, compost reduces the bulk density and increases
the porosity of soils, thus improves the exchange of air and water through the soil. In soils that
are predominantly sand, compost will increase the water holding capacity and soil aggregation,
as illustrated in Figure 2. This addition of organic matter to ameliorate harsh soil conditions as
part of restoration is recommended to improve the vegetative establishment and increase the rate
of community succession (Bradshaw and Chadwick 1980).

July 2005                     Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
                                                          small voids
                                                     (difficult for water to move)
                             Aggregation                  Low stability
                                with                         with
                           high organic matter             low organic matter
 Figure 2. Aggregation in the soil is enhanced when organics in the soil are present, because soil microbes and biota
                   are more active. Greater aggregation, in turn, enhances permeability.

    Supplies macro and micronutrients

    A mature compost can supply virtually every nutrient needed for plant growth in an available
form, especially nitrogen. Composting alters the availability of nutrients from the feedstock (raw
materials). During the process, available nutrients (or those that become available due to
decomposition) are used by microbes decomposing the carbon-rich bulking agent (e.g., sawdust
or yard trimmings). Thus, there are usually less available nutrients per unit of compost compared
to the feedstock. This can be considered a positive attribute of compost, however, as it allows a
higher application rate — more organic matter can be incorporated as part of the renovated soil.

    The nutrients available for plant growth are dependent upon two factors:  1) the
characteristics of the bulking  agent, and 2) the stability of the compost. Sawdust has virtually no
nitrogen, and in decomposition of it, a significant amount of nitrogen is needed. In contrast, yard
trimmings (especially if grass clippings are present) have a fair amount of nitrogen, usually need
no nitrogen from other materials, and in some cases release some of their nitrogen into the soil.

    A truly stable compost has reached an equilibrium between carbon and nitrogen. That is,
there will be neither great demand for nitrogen, nor considerable nitrogen released from the
compost. The time required to reach this equilibrium and for a compost to become stable (or
mature) varies for different composts. For instance, a yard trimmings compost may become
stable sooner than a coarse sawdust compost because much of the organic compounds are readily
decomposable.  Coarse sawdust decomposes slowly because the particle size is fairly big and
very deficient in nitrogen within the chip.

    Contributes organic matter

    Compost adds organic matter to the soil. This organic matter does a number of things. It
stores and slowly releases nutrients; it has a high moisture holding capacity; it enhances
movement of water through the soil; and it has a high cation exchange capacity (i.e., it attracts
and retains cations — positive charged nutrients). Many potential sites are devoid of organic
matter; addition of organics has the potential to greatly improve soil productivity.

    Additionally, the organic  matter in compost greatly influences aggregate formation and
stability.  The importance of this property is evident in Figure 2. Where organic matter is present,
the soil particles are "bound"  together, i.e., aggregated, and voids are present in the aggregated
soil compared to the soil low  in organic matter. These voids are the "pipes" for water flow

    Aggregation also decreases erosion. Sediment movement by rainwater is  reduced when soil
particles  are larger. Organic matter which binds soil particles together, greatly reduces  the

July 2005                     Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration

potential for movement of these particles into streams. Organic matter not only retains (absorbs)
more water than soil, but can also increase permeability of soil by increasing pore space in the
soil. This means that the water will pass through the soil rather than flow over the surface of the
soil. Largely because of all these characteristics, in many instances water quality can be
improved by the use of compost.

    Supplies beneficial microorganisms to soil

    Organic matter is the energy source for soil microorganisms and the population of fungi,
actinomycetes, and bacteria increases with the addition of compost. These soil microbes are
responsible for the decomposition of compost and thus the nutrient cycling, and are essential for
healthy plants. They also compete with soil pathogens. In a number of cases it has been shown
that use of compost suppresses plant diseases, as described in the literature reviews Technical
Information on the Use of Organic Materials as Soil Amendments (Henry 1991), and Status of
compost-amended potting mixes naturally suppressive to soil-borne diseases offloricultural
crops (Hoitink et al., 1991).

    Improves and stabilizes soil pH

    The pH of the soil can be changed through the addition of compost depending upon the pH of
the soil and compost. Compost with a typical pH (6-8) may be able to replace or reduce the use
of lime for acidic  soils. For very acidic soils, lime may also be added to compost. In addition,
compost can provide buffering capacity to stabilize soil pH, making the soil more resistant to
changes in pH.

    Can bind or degrade specific pollutants

    Compost has the ability to bind heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and other contaminants,
reducing their teachability and uptake by plants (Brown et al. 2004, Fogarty and Tuoviea 1991).
The soil microorganisms that  compost supports also help break down pesticides, fertilizers, and

    Improves water quality

    The characteristics of compost mentioned above have the potential to improve the quality of
water coming from watersheds. The three main reasons for this are: 1) sediment movement is
reduced, 2) the soil binds and  retains nutrients and other elements, and 3) plant growth is

    Soil erosion. When raindrops strike bare soil, the soil will erode and may enter streams.
Initially, fine particles can be  dislodged due to the energy of impact of the raindrops. Then, when
rainfall intensity exceeds soil  infiltration rates, energy of flowing water over the surface of the
soil can erode particles along its path. The potential for erosion is greater with both higher flows
and higher velocity of flow. As discussed earlier, organic matter will: i) bind soil particles
together, making them harder to dislodge (requiring more energy), ii) hold more water, reducing
the rate of runoff, and iii) increase permeability of the soil, again reducing the rate of runoff.

    Soil as a treatment mechanism. Once water is in the soil, the soil "micro ecology" can be
viewed as a natural treatment  system, utilizing or retaining the nutrients which would otherwise
pass into streams or lakes. There are many mechanisms that reduce movement of nutrients either
into ground water or surface water. These include immobilization by microbes (the use of
nutrients in synthesis of new microbial biomass), uptake by the roots of plants, and chemical
attractions and transformations. Many of the nutrients and trace  elements are cations (positively
charged ions), and electrostatically attracted to the cation exchange sites (negative charges of soil
clays and organic  matter). This mechanism greatly restricts  movement of the cations, yet they are
available for plant uptake. However, some of the nutrients are more mobile in the soil, especially
the anions (negatively charged ions),  such as NOs", Cl~, and SO42~. Although phosphorus also is

July 2005                    Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration

prevalent as an anion (PC>43~), it is often strongly held in the soil as a precipitate of calcium,
aluminum or iron.

    These mechanisms in the soil have been shown to be effective, such as in recent studies in a
steep, forested watershed in western Washington, where it was found that phosphorous and
ammonium N were not increased during runoff events following biosolids application (Grey and
Henry 2002). A relationship between nitrate N and runoff was found although the nitrate losses
from the biosolids amounted to less than  1% of the original mass of nitrogen that had been

    Plant response. Enhanced soil moisture conditions and availability of nutrients will enhance
both plant establishment and growth. Enhancement of both trees and the understory vegetation
decreases the potential for surface runoff and subsequent sediment movement into streams. This
is a result of interception and dissipation of the energy of raindrops, disruption of any runoff
patterns of overland flow, increase in infiltration through macropores formed by old roots, and
binding the soils by root balls.

Environmental Concerns

    The different types of compost materials each have different types of environmental
concerns. The primary concerns with yard-waste composts include weed seeds, herbicide or
pesticide persistence from the base material, and plant pathogens. Even the nutrients in
yardwaste compost can have adverse environmental impacts if not managed properly. In
contrast, concerns regarding biosolids include trace elements, trace synthetic organics, and
pathogens. All of these constituents, if found in excessive amounts, have the potential to degrade
the environment and affect human and animal health.

    The environment is protected against this potential degradation in at least three ways:  1)
Compost quality is high, due to industrial pretreatment of wastewater and hazardous waste
programs, keeping the contaminants out of biosolids and other composts; 2) Proper management
practices for compost and organic residuals are used including calculating appropriate
application rates, maintaining buffers from waterways and conducting environmental
monitoring; and 3) Characteristics are present in the soil, composts and biosolids to "treat" and
bind contaminants.

    Weed introduction

    Weed seeds may potentially contaminate yardwaste compost materials through the base
material or through other sources, such as wind-blown seeds. Commercially produced composts
are generally allowed to  reach temperatures exceeding 54 to 65 degrees C in order to destroy
weed  seeds. Grundy et al (1998) tested eight types of weed seeds that had been buried in packets
in municipal yardwaste compost. The study found that all of the weed species were destroyed
when  the temperatures were allowed to reach 55 degrees C for three days. However, weed seeds
could still survive if there are any cooler spots due to inefficient turning of the pile or if wind-
blown seeds reached the outer portion of the pile following this process. Weed species that
regenerate following fire may survive temperatures exceeding 55 degrees C and be able to

    Change in site conditions to favor non-native vegetation

    Non-native plants have been shown to substantially change the natural ecological succession,
community structure and vegetative composition and diversity of native ecosystems. These
species generally have evolved to thrive in moderate to high soil nutrient content,  and may be
expected to perform better with the addition of compost. Contrary to this expectation, results of a
study  on the effect of compost on native plant establishment and growth indicated favorable
growth of native plants resulting from enhanced soil nutrient levels and improved physical soil
conditions (Bergeron 2003). Other studies with compost have found similar results. Meyer et al.

July 2005
Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
(2004) found establishment of native species for four years using compost after following a high
severity fire.

    Nutrient management

    Although the common perception of biosolids is that it contains large amounts of
contaminants, surprisingly it is the nutrients (primarily nitrogen) contained in biosolids and other
organic residuals that restrict application rates. Many studies have documented this; seldom have
heavy applications posed problems from contaminants, whereas over-application will invariably
cause nitrate leaching. Proper nutrient management - controlled application rates such as that
used for any fertilization - will reduce risk of it occurring. Figure 3 shows actual data from a
biosolids-applied site. For comparison purposes, both Douglas-fir stands and red alder stands are
also show. Red alder is a nitrogen fixer, and typically adds significant amounts of nitrate to
ground and  surface waters. Current research is focused on nitrogen management, continually
providing more accurate design of application rates. Secondly, site monitoring provides
information to fine tune site specific application rates.

    In many cases, phosphorus is used by plants at the same rate as it is supplied by the biosolids
when application rates are based on nitrogen.  This is because there is a fairly consistent ratio of
nitrogen to phosphorus in most organic residuals.  However, phosphorus content in biosolids may
contain 2-3  times the P required by plants when applied at the N rate. If this is the case, excess P
may occur. Excess phosphorus not used by plants usually precipitates (as described earlier) and
is no longer soluble. The capacity of the soil to remove P is high in most forest soils in the
western US, resulting in phosphorus rarely being a problem in an land application system. This
may not be the case in other areas in the US, especially where frequent applications of manures
have been applied.

    Thus proper nutrient management will reduce risk of other environmental concerns to
insignificant levels. A more complete discussion of nitrogen management can be found in
Managing Nitrogen from Biosolids (Henry 1999).

5 - 20 ppm

^— EPA Drinking Water Standard = 10 ppm

nd-nfippm 0.3 -1.1 ppm
                    Alder- dominated
           Douglas-fir dominated
               Watershed at
 Biosolids Site
Actual Site Data
        Figure 3. Comparison of nitrate-N concentrations in streams from different forests (Henry 1995).

    Trace elements

    Our soil contains trace elements (often referred to as "heavy metals"). Some of these are
present naturally in rocks that decompose into soil, some may be from atmospheric deposition,
and some from substances that humans apply to it. Biosolids and other organic materials contain
trace elements from domestic, storm water and industrial sources that enter the sewage system.
Some of these at high concentrations can be toxic to plants or animals. Several of these elements
are also necessary plant or animal nutrients, meaning their lack is detrimental to the health of

July 2005
Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
associated plants or animals. Necessary trace elements include V, Cr, Mo, Mn, Fe, Co, Cu, Zn
and Se. Deficiencies of all of these elements have been noted in nature. Plant or animal toxicity
of several of these elements sometimes limit biotic productivity in nature, including Cd, Ni, Zn,
Cu, Pb, Cr, Mn, As, Mo and Se.

   Over the years, the quality of biosolids has improved dramatically as a result of industrial
pretreatment programs, household hazardous waste education and changes in water supply
management. Secondly, trace elements are not all in forms that react with the environment. In
other words, there are many mechanisms within soils and biosolids that reduce or eliminate their
availability. Figure 4 shows these mechanisms, which are both chemical and biological in nature.
In order for an element to move with water through the soil, it must be in a soluble form; in order
for it to be available to plants it must be either soluble or exchangeable. By far the majority of
elements in biosolids/organic residuals/soil are not in these forms, and research has shown that
they become even less available with time (favored transformations are indicated by the heavier
arrows in Figure 4). In some cases, addition of biosolids to soils may actually reduce the
availability of the natural occurring trace elements.
                                         Complexed with
                                       organic and inorganic
                                        Trace elements
                                          soil solution
                    on clay, organic
                   matter or oxides
                                         Oxide occluded
  Figure 4. Processes by which trace elements found in biosolids are retained by the soil. Heavier arrows indicate
 general favored transformations. These element/soil/biosolids interactions restrict movement with water and uptake
                                          by plants.

    Our environment can assimilate certain levels of these elements beyond the concentration
that is required for plants. This level is included in the U.S. EPA standards for safe use of
biosolids (40 CFR 503), as a result of an extensive exposure risk assessment methodology.
Exceptional quality biosolids have concentrations below the following:
                   41 mg/kg
                   39 mg/kg
                 1500 mg/kg
                  300 mg/kg
                   17 mg/kg
                  420 mg/kg
                  100 mg/kg

July 2005                     Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration

                     zinc                    2800 mg/kg

    Biosolids, biosolids composts and other organic residuals are typically well below these
regulatory limits.

    Trace synthetic organics

    Trace synthetic organic compounds have not been found in biosolids at concentrations even
remotely posing significant risk, and therefore not a problem in land application systems.
Organic compounds are readily sorbed to the organic surfaces of the soil system and thus  have
limited mobility through the soil profile. In that these organic compounds are typically
biodegradable, they will not accumulate to any extent in the soil.

    In addition, concentrations of many organics in biosolids were dramatically decreasing as the
result of industrial pretreatment, household hazardous waste programs, and halting production of
the most  toxic chemicals (such as PCBs). Synthetic organics also pose little risk because  they
are difficult to assimilate. The main exposure route for humans and other animals is by direct
ingestion of soil containing biosolids or consumption of fat from animals that ate soil. Plants
take up insignificant amounts of organics as they are strongly adsorbed to soil particles,
especially by the organic fraction of biosolids.  Studies have shown that PCBs and
dioxins/difurans pose little risk, despite their high toxicity.


    The EPA has developed standards for the level of pathogens in biosolids and biosolids
products. Class A means that the treatment process results in a biosolids or biosolids product that
has indicator organisms below the limits of detection for the methods specified in Part 503. is
essentially pathogen free. The Class B means that, whereas most of the pathogens have been
killed, a few (<1%) may survive. Class B biosolids have undergone a Process to Significantly
Reduce Pathogens (PSRP) and that do not pose a threat to public health and the environment as
long as actions are taken to prevent exposure to the biosolids after use.  (An example is the
restriction of public entry in applied areas immediately following application. Full details of
these restrictions are outlined in the regulations.) The remaining pathogens are initially filtered
out by the soil and forest floor and then replaced by the native organisms of the soil. The survival
time for most microorganisms following land application is typically very  short but is dependent
on a variety of soil and climatic conditions including temperature, moisture content and pH.
Bacterial pathogens will generally die off to negligible numbers within 2 to 3 months following
application. Viruses can survive up to 3 months, while protozoa will survive for only a few days
(Kowal 1985). In any case these microorganisms will not leach through the soil system to present
a public health problem for the receiving ground waters. They will remain in the surface soils for
the duration of their survival period. Where surface runoff occurs pathogens will be filtered out
by the fine particles in the forest floor and soil within the buffers and be kept from entering into
receiving water bodies. Generators and contractors are familiar with these restrictions and can
make sure that application is in compliance with the regulations.

    In contrast to Class B, Class A materials have undergone a Process  to Further Reduce
Pathogens (PFRP), such as  high temperature digestion, composting or heat drying. This means
that the concentration of fecal coliform is less than 1000 per g dry solids or salmonella is  below
the detection limit. Properly managed, a compost will be a Class A product.

Applications in Forest Land Restoration

    Potential sites for compost use

    Generally, to be consistent with restoration objectives, site characteristics desirable for
compost use in forested environments are those with bare soil, and those where there is a plan to

July 2005                     Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration

establish vegetation. These include cut and fill slopes, roadways to be abandoned, landings, and
other areas of bare soil caused by either natural or human disturbance. Areas that should be
avoided include those with excessive slopes (defined later), bare rock, and adjacent to flowing

    Road obliteration

    Road closure and obliteration is one of the most important methods used to improve and
protect watersheds within the National Forests of the Pacific Northwest. These are generally
compacted, have little sideslope, and usually have grades less than 15%. Road obliteration is the
process of removing and treating roads, resulting in partial to complete recontouring of the site to
match the surrounding natural terrain.

    The main objectives of forest road obliteration are to restore hillslope  hydrology, decrease
surface erosion and the risk of mass wasting, and promote the re-establishment of native
vegetation. The primary factors limiting the re-establishment of native plants in this environment
are poorly constructed soils, the lack of water holding capacity, and low soil nutrient
concentrations (especially nitrogen). Road obliteration is a restoration tool used to meet the goal
of promoting long-term vegetative succession. However, the lack of organic matter in the soils of
obliterated roads may seriously limit the establishment and growth of vegetation, and may hinder
or prevent succession towards mature native plant communities (Bradshaw and Chadwick 1980).
Thus, compost  application can significantly increase restoration success.

    Due to their compacted surface, it is highly desirable to rip  the surface following compost
application to facilitate movement of water into the soil and allow root penetration. Design
considerations include: 1) compost application rate, and 2) existence of waterways, 3) runoff
                      Original slope                  X~*""~ Original slope
           Cut slope —«^      f- R0ad bed         Cut slope
                              (outward slope)


                            Fill slope
         Figure 7. Typical road sections cut into hillside, with and without ditch for water conveyance.


    Similar to roadways, landings are excellent opportunities for compost use, and have similar
design considerations. Landings may also have substantial piles of logging debris. This material
can easily be pulled back into the landing and help stabilize soil after application and ripping.
Compost may even accelerate decomposition of the big woody debris by adding nutrients,
holding moisture, and encouraging plant  growth.

    Natural eroded surfaces

    Areas may exist which have eroded by natural causes, or indirectly from prior logging
activities. These include slope failures or erosion from flooding. Some of these areas may be
appropriate for reclamation using compost. However, as these areas failed under natural (or

July 2005                    Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration

"altered natural" conditions), it is highly likely that they will fail again in the future regardless of
efforts of restoration. Thus, a major consideration for this type of reclamation is whether the
benefit outweighs the potential future failure. In some cases a delay or reduction of future
erosion warrants the use of compost on this type of site. However, failure which allows a
significant amount of compost (with associated nutrients and trace elements) to enter flowing
water is not desirable.

    Roadside restoration

    Numerous state agencies have begun incorporating compost in roadside and highway
restoration projects (US Compost Council 2003). Compost has been used in traditional landscape
applications and expanded use to erosion and sediment control, reclamation, bioremediation,
store water management and wetland restoration. The ability of compost to improve soil
structure has resulted in reduced road maintenance costs in the long-term when compared with
traditional engineering approaches.

    One approach that has been developed lately for sediment-trapping and filtration devices is
the use of composted materials encased within mesh bags (Faucette 2004). These proprietary
netting products have had success in projects for erosion control and storm water management.

    Mine restoration

    Soil conditions on mine tailings represent conditions that are similar but significantly harsher
than the mineral soil conditions characteristic of obliterated roads. Mine tailings generally have
low pH and insufficient levels of nitrogen phosphorous and potassium, and high metal solubility.
Biosolids compost and other organic amendments have been shown to improve soil properties on
mine tailings (Bradshaw 1983, Brown et al. 2003, Cocke and Brown 1987, Harrison et al. 1995,
Hudson 1994). This improvement has been demonstrated to  be a result of: 1) an increase in the
soil pH in acidic soil; 2) improved available water capacity; and 3) increased nitrogen,
phosphorous and micronutrients. The result of these soil applications is an improved success of
revegetation efforts.

    Campsite  restoration

    Heavy recreation use often results in severely compacted soils with a loss of vegetation. This
combination may result in soil erosion, further deteriorating  the resources. In an effort to assess
the effectiveness of campsite restoration, the Forest Service (USDA Forest Service 2001),
initiated a study of restoration treatments in sub-alpine forests in northeastern Oregon. The
restoration treatments included scarification, amending the soil with composted biosolids and a
native soil innoculum, followed by planting native plants. When compared to untreated sites, or
sites without soil amendments, there was a substantial improvement in seedling growth and
survival. The authors anticipated complete recovery of the fully treated sites within five  years
compared to over 100 years for sites that had been scarified but not amended nor planted.

    Restoration of wildfire sites

    High intensity wildfires can detrimentally alter many ecosystem functions. Loss of
vegetation, and especially the organic duff covering the forest floor can change infiltration rates
during heavy rainfall, leading to heavy runoff and subsequent erosion.  Composted biosolids have
successfully been used to accelerate revegetation and reduce particulate movement into water
bodies (Meyer et al. 2001 & 2004). Plant biomass and percent cover were both shown to
increase, and corresponding runoff quality improved.

July 2005                    Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
                               Elements of a Project

Obtaining Soil Amendments

   Yardwaste composts

   Municipalities and counties often have yard waste composting programs, which can be
obtained through public works or other offices. Yardwaste composts are commercially produced
that are generally made from yard waste with small amounts of wood waste, and can include
grocery-produce waste. The temperature of the materials are allowed to rise above 130 degrees F
in order to reduce weed seeds and plant pathogens. You can also make your own on-site from
shredded/chipped yard waste from maintenance activities of parks or other facilities.

   Biosolids composts

   Biosolids are the residual materials from primary and secondary wastewater treatment. This
material contains: a) organic matter, b) inorganic matter, including sand  and ash, c)
macronutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, and d) micronutrients, such as iron and zinc.

                                             Biosolids composts are produced by
                                          combining carbon-rich material, such as sawdust
                                          or woodchips, with biosolids. Both high and low
                                          N biosolids may be used as part of the feedstock
                                          for producing composts. Composting can be a
                                          portion of a municipalities biosolids program,
                                          either done by the municipality or by a private
                                          company. Finished compost is generally produced
                                          for the home gardener or  landscaper so that the
                                          final product needs to be  highly stable and
                                          screened to a small particle size. As a result of
                                          this, composts tend to be  the most expensive of all
                                          types of biosolids so that  the use of compost in
                                          restoration may not be the most cost effective
option. Composts tend to have low fertilizer value and are used primarily as a soil conditioner.
However, they can also be used to create a new soil horizon. High rates of compost are required
for restoration (generally applying 3" of material is sufficient to create a new soil horizon). They
are appropriate for  use in high population areas and in areas bordering roads and streams where
potential erosion of less stable materials is a concern. They can also be used as a border in
projects that primarily use biosolids. Composts are also highly effective  for use in wetland
restoration or construction. They are stable, highly organic materials that are similar to the muck
found in naturally occurring wetlands.

   One way to lower the costs associated with compost use is to use compost that has not been
screened or completely cured, as both long detention times and screening add significant costs to
the process. These less stable materials are much cheaper to produce and can be obtained by
working with a municipality or composting operation to specify the type of product that you

   As an alternative, a relatively low-tech and cost effective way to produce compost from
biosolids is by use of a static pile on site mixed with carbon-rich material at hand (logging waste,
logyard waste, hog fuel, etc.). Biosolids can be set in piles and left to cure for 4 or more months.
Little odor will be created except at pile building, and some amount at extraction of composted
material for land application.

July 2005                     Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
   On-site Materials (residual logging debris)

   Logging residuals, such as foliage, branches, and log decks, remaining on site after timber
harvest, have tremendous potential for use in restoration projects. These materials are typically
burned following timber harvest or thinning although increasing concerns about air quality

   Lopped and chipped slash was combined with fertilizer in study of road restoration western
Montana (Bradley 1997). The combination of scarification of the road surface and mulching
produced a much higher vegetative biomass, seed germination, and seedbed density compared to
the scarification or mulching alone. The combination of scarification and mulching also
produced the greatest improvement in soil physical properties.

   Their Cost

   The additional cost of compost in restoration is a frequent concern. However, studies
conducted by state highway departments (US Composting Council 2003) have shown that long-
term costs in roadside construction have been reduced as a result of lower maintenance costs.
The decision whether to use composts needs to be based upon the objectives of the restoration
project. If a project fails because of lack of organic matter, then the project is not cost effective.

   Nationwide, yardwaste, manure, and biosolids compost costs are typically $9-$ 15 per cubic
yard. In addition, transportation to the restoration site and application of the materials need to be
factored in to total costs. Materials found  on-site, such as logging residues, may require a chipper
in order to break down the material into a size suitable for application.

   Under the Clean Water Act, all municipalities that generate biosolids are responsible for their
management—use or disposal. Beneficial use for agriculture, silviculture, and restoration are
recommended end-uses for biosolids under this act. Generally, a municipality will  have
developed a range of beneficial use options or will have paid a contractor to develop a beneficial
use program. In all cases, the municipality has costs associated with biosolids use or disposal. It
is also the goal of all municipalities to reduce these costs. In certain cases, the municipality or
contractor will willingly provide and incorporate biosolids at no charge. In many cases,  a token
payment will be required.

   The cost to treat a 2.5 km long road rehabilitation project on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie
National Forest was estimated to be approximately $2600 for 2 inches of biosolids compost.
However, the results of a two-year study of vegetative growth and biomass on this site indicate
that a one inch application combined with winter wheat seed produced the most cost effective
treatment combination.

Design and Permitting Process

   Site suitability considerations

   Often the disturbed areas,  and thus the potential sites for compost use, exist in extreme
conditions. These include excessively steep  slopes (such as those occurring as a result of road
building), severely compacted soils (old road beds or landings), areas that have been disturbed or
eroded by heavy spring runoff, or areas where little or no soil exists for vegetation to establish.
Potentially, these are the sites that can benefit the most from compost use.

   However, the extreme sites are also those which stand the greatest chance of failure to meet
the goals of restoration. For instance, compost may not be retained on excessively  steep slopes,
compost entering waterways may cause eutrophication, or vegetation establishment may be only
temporary and may erode away in the future. In the following sections guidelines are shown for
slopes and buffers from waterways based  on field research and experience. The  guidance
provided here also requires the use of field common sense, as well as appropriate evaluation of
results in when the compost is used in new situations.

July 2005
Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
   Application rate

   If one were to look at a native soil in the forest (schematic as shown in Figure 8), typically
you would see an organic layer (O horizon) on top, followed by a dark mineral horizon (A
horizon). When these have been disturbed, many desirable characteristics of soils have been lost,
such as the organic matter, the nutrient bank, moisture holding capacity and porosity. This is
especially true for old roadbeds, where the organic matter has purposely been removed. The goal
of applying organic matter is to recreate these horizons, so that good soil characteristics can be
                                         organic, organic? Ihlle changed
                                         organic, some recognition
                                         organic, unrecognizable
                                         fir-El mineral, Mfne humus
                                          zone of leaching
                                          zone of accumu lalion
                                          zone of lea-El wealhering
                                          bed rock
                             Figure 8. Typical soil profile and horizons.

   Experience tells us that more of an organic amendment is generally better - and most of the
benefit is when the material is in the rooting zone (top 6 inches). How much to apply is largely a
balance between cost and benefit. Recommendations provided here are what may be considered
conservatively low application rates; ones that can get the job done but consider the economics.

   In these recommendations it is assumed that a "nutrient balanced" compost has been
manufactured. In other words, the compost amendment should not have nutrients either deficient
nor in excess. If a high nitrogen containing material is used in the reclamation project, excessive
N could leave the site. Good guidelines exist to calculate application rates based on N (Henry

   Roads and landings (compost incorporated). Where the compost is applied and incorporated
into the soil, a 2-3 inch application is recommended. This is equal to about 100 tons/ac dry
matter, and if we assume it is incorporated into the  top 6 inches of soil, it will result in up to 10%
organic matter in this layer. In a few years, decomposition will probably reduce this to about 5%,
which is a good target for a topsoil. This target rate may be high for some areas,  such as the semi
arid/arid regions of the PNW, where "relatively productive" surrounding soils may be
considerable less than 5% organic matter.

   Slopes and natural erosion areas (compost surface applied). In areas with slopes too steep
for equipment to incorporate the compost, it can be surface applied. In a sense, this is like
creating an instant duff layer similar to litterfall. Research to date suggest that a surface
application of one inch of biosolids compost combined with winter wheat seed as a cover crop
resulted in  substantially improved vegetative cover and native plant biomass  (Bergeron 2003).
The single  application of organic matter has shown to  promote plant growth over a two-year

July 2005                    Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration

period and eventually, as the plants die and decompose, the soil properties should continue to

    Slope criteria

    Recent research has shown no movement of compost over a winter and following spring with
slopes up to 40%, and little movement (but still complete coverage of the soil with compost) at
slopes up to 65%. Using these results, acceptable slopes have been recommended to include
those up to 50%. Where terraces are constructed, erosion potential is reduced, so average slopes
exceeding the value shown in Table 1 may be applied, but only to the actual terrace. Bare smooth
rock will probably not hold compost for a significant period of time, and thus are not
recommended for application.

       Table 1. Recommendations for applications of compost to slopes.

       General criteria for surface application
          Average <50%                        apply to the whole slope
          Average >50%                        do not apply
       General criteria for incorporated application
          Average <50%                        apply to the whole slope
          Average >50%                        do not apply
       Terraced slopes                          apply to terraces
       Rocky slopes
              solid rock                         do not apply
              soil with solid rock portions        apply to soil portion only
              broken rock (ave. <3" dia)          apply to the whole slope
       Hard packed soil on slopes                rough up surface of soil

    Buffers from flowing water and ditches

    Our objective in compost use is to rehabilitate the soil for a net reduction of erosion. Buffer
recommendations were developed consistent with this objective and for the following purposes:
1) to provide a factor of safety against errors even when proper application and management
techniques are  used, and 2) to absorb constituents and filter runoff from waste-applied surfaces.
Depending upon compost application method, material can be placed pretty close to where we
want it, and waterways can be identified fairly easily in these disturbed areas. The
recommendations of minimums of 33' from continuously flowing water were made to be
consistent with EPA's 40 CFR 503 biosolids regulation. In some cases, "waters of the U.S." may
include intermittent streams and in some cases dry stream beds. To have set backs less than the
33'  foot requirement,  the permitting authority may have to be consulted.

    Although it may be possible to reduce erosion by using compost immediately adjacent to a
waterway, erosion of the compost is highly likely in some conditions. The purpose of Table 2 is
to give guidance to minimize the potential for loss of compost or nutrients to the waterways.
Figure 9 shows some of the buffers for typical situations.

    Application to cut slopes where there is a ditch at the bottom should generally not be made
even though we have recommendations for buffer distance (Figure 9), because invariably some
of the compost will enter the ditch, and it, or the nutrients in it, will be transported downstream
during rainfall  events. One alternative is to eliminate the ditch, and slope the road as shown in
the  first part of Figure 9. This will effectively eliminate concentration of flowing water, and
distribute it on the downslope side of the roadbed. Any channeling in the road should be buffered
as recommended in Table 2.

July 2005
Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
   Water bars should be incorporated into road closures to channel flow and reduce erosion
from water running down the center of the road. Figure  10 shows recommended buffers or
compost from water bars. If one or more of the sides are bermed in water bar construction, the
compost may be applied to the outside top of the berm.
       Table 2. Buffer recommendations for applications of compost.
           Slope and
       Application Method
       Slope <5%
          Surface applied                       33'
          Incorporated                         33'
       Slopes <50%
          Waterway downslope, buffer vegetated
              Surface applied                   50'
              Incorporated                      33'
          Waterway downslope, buffer bare soil
              Surface applied                  100'
              Incorporated                      50'
       Terraced                                33'
          With berm
          Without berm - surface applied
          Without berm - incorporated


                                to berm
         May need consultation with the permitting authority.
              £— Original
             Figure 9. Compost and buffer recommendations for road sections and from ditches.
   Sites with characteristics outside these guidelines
   As mentioned, these guidelines are purposely conservative, and we expect there are many
potential uses/situations that lie outside of the "acceptable limits" as defined by these guidelines.
Additional potential opportunities should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis so that the
successful use of compost can be expanded. Those with a relatively high potential will be
developed as a small monitored research project, where the results can be used to modify these
guidelines in the future.

July 2005
Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
             compost may go
             up to top of berm
                                    O     / /y^O'surface-
                                     '  / 's^applied
                                 A- * f   < JF 5' incorporated
                            1 Com post-

        Figure 10. Buffers recommended for compost application near water bars on abandoned roads.
   Permitting process

   Permits are generally required for all biosolids applications with the exception of small scale
biosolids compost use.  Use of biosolids for reclamation is a recommended practice in US
regulations. A provision is made within the regulations for application in excess of agricultural
rates for restoration objectives: 503.14(d) "Bulk sewage sludge shall be applied.... at agronomic
rates...unless, in the case of a reclamation site, otherwise specified by the permitting authority."
Permits may be required on several levels, depending on the particular region of the country.
Generally, the permitting process is best left to the experts. If biosolids are being obtained
through a municipality, generators can often walk the necessary permits through. Another way to
obtain appropriate permits is by working with the regional/state biosolids coordinator.

   Federal regulations -- 40 CFR 503

   Contaminants - metals and organics. The national regulations that define appropriate use
of biosolids are detailed in 40 CFR part 503. The basis for 40 CFR 503 is an exposure risk
assessment that used a  "highly exposed individual" pathway approach to evaluate potential
negative impacts from contaminants as a result of biosolids use. Although the data for the
assessment was primarily from agronomic use of biosolids, soil reclamation was also considered.
As part of the regulation, EPA defined as exceptional quality biosolids, where the maximum
metal concentrations meet or exceed those described earlier in Environmental Concerns: Trace
elements. These materials may be used without restriction. Currently the vast majority of
biosolids produced in the country  have metal concentrations  well below these limits, especially
when the biosolids have been mixed with other residuals and composted. Organic contaminants
are not regulated under 40 CFR 503 as concentrations of these materials were well below
concentrations that were deemed to pose a potential risk. (For the technical basis for 40 CFR 503
see EPA 1995.)

   State regulations

   The 40 CFR Part 503 regulations are the minimum standards for biosolids application. Each
state has the freedom to apply more stringent standards above and beyond those outlined in 503.
The EPA regional biosolids coordinator will be familiar with any additional regulations. Many
additional regulations relate primarily to agricultural use of biosolids. Use of material for
restoration purposes (generally a one-time application) may be exempt from these additional

July 2005                     Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
   Social Acceptance

   While the use of yardwaste compost in restoration is seen as a progressive use of recycled
materials, the use of biosolids compost can still raise some concern. In the use of straight
biosolids, a successful project usually requires a pro-active approach. It is necessary to be very
open with local citizens groups about the nature of the restoration project. This includes being
straightforward about the materials to be used as well as their origins. Low-keyed informational
meetings (as opposed to formal public meetings or hearings) and articles in local papers are very
effective means for gaining public acceptance. A large body of educational materials exists that
is excellent for use in public meetings. These include videos and pamphlets that describe what
biosolids are, the regulations governing their use, and the benefits associated with biosolids use.
The generator or contractor providing biosolids for a project may have access to these types of
materials. The Northwest Biosolids Management Association (NBMA - contact Maile Lono 206
684-1145 www.nwbiosolids.org) is also an excellent source of general educational material and
can also provide detailed literature reviews on the environmental effects of biosolids use.

   One major advantage of the use of composted biosolids, is that is normally looks good and
doesn't have an objectionable odor. In most cases it can be used without the extensive social
acceptance effort that straight biosolids  requires.

Application Techniques

   Application of compost usually requires special equipment to match the characteristics of the
compost to the individual site. The amount of moisture in residuals and composts, commonly
reported as % solids (a weight measurement of  the amount of solids and water in a biosolids
sample), is the predominant characteristic that dictates the type of machinery required, the
application procedures and application timing. The solids content of compost vary from about 40
to over 60% solids (60 to over 40% moisture), as compared to biosolids that vary from a dark
liquid at 2-3% solids to a semi-solid moist cake-like material at up to 40% solids. Dewatered
biosolids, sometimes called cake, have had polymers or lime added prior to belt filter press or
centrifuge processing to achieve a 15-30% solids content. They are generally the consistency of
gelatinous mud.

   Application rates are typically calculated on a dry weight basis. This means that, for an
average compost (at 50% solids), application of 100 dry t/ac would involve applying 200 wet t/ac
of material. This is a significant amount of material at 2-3" deep. This quantity suggests
simplicity and speed — a feature of direct spreading! A variety of equipment technologies are
available to perform direct spreading including  farm manure wagons, all terrain vehicles with
rear tanks and dump trucks.

   Heavy applications such as this can  be accomplished using two basic techniques, both of
which are relatively easy in concept and relatively  inexpensive.

•  Single application. The fastest and  most cost-effective method is to make the total
   application in a single lift. Once applied, normal farm disks can be used to incorporate
   compost into the subsoils.

•  Multiple lifts. In some cases using materials with low percent solids and with some
   equipment, it may be easier to apply in smaller "lifts", or partial applications. For example,
   applying a low percent solids material like biosolids or manure means that a much greater
   depth of material. That may require  either incorporation or drying between applications.
   Another example is using a manure  spreader that is designed for 3-10 tons per acre may
   require repeated passes. In the case of multiple heavy applications needed within a short
   period of time, working the soil becomes a definite challenge, as repeated applications
   following by mixing without drying will turn the soil into a deep quagmire (potentially far

July 2005
Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
   deeper than the actual depth of material added). Because the soil is worked many more times
   in this method, costs will be significantly higher.

   There are several technologies that are effective for applying and even incorporating these
rates of materials. Site topography, soil strength, evenness (including debris), and waterways are
the physical features that affect equipment selection. Easy access, stable soils and a clear site
favors the simple methods, while obstructions or steep slopes require specific equipment. Also
important is the application rate, as light applications require a more precise method. The
following table summarizes the common types of equipment available to make applications to
disturbed soils.
        Table 3. Comparison of different application systems used in remediation sites.

Dump truck
spreading with
Application vehicle
with mounted
Application vehicle
with rear splash
Application vehicle
with side discharge
spreader - rear


> 12%
< 12%
Relative Costs

Low capital, low
Moderate capital,
high O&M
Moderate capital,
moderate O&M
Moderate capital,
moderate O&M
Low capital, low

Simple to operate,
fast for high
application rates
Can make even
applications for low
rates, any terrain.
Can make even
applications for low
rates, moderate
Can make even
applications for low
rates, any terrain.
Can make even
applications for low
rates, moderate

Need cleared,
relatively flat site,
acceptable to heavy
equipment, difficult
to get even
applications for low
application rates
May need special
trails with strength
for repeated trips,
May need special
trails with strength
for repeated trips,
May need special
trails with strength
for repeated trips,
moderate speed.
Limited to high %
solids, trails may
need to be close
together, moderate

July 2005
Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
   Dump truck and dozer

   The most basic (and simple) application technologies use dump trucks and bulldozers. Dump
trucks can transport materials directly to the application site and end dump in piles placed evenly
throughout the site. If the soils can not withstand heavy trucks, either dump trucks or other
                                                       equipment with high flotation tires
                                                       can be used between the point that
                                                       the long-haul vehicles can access
                                                       and where the amendment will be
                                                       used. This equipment may be
                                                       available from the POTW that
                                                       supplies the compost or biosolids,
                                                       potentially for the price of
                                                       transportation and a small fee.. The
                                                       capacity of the dump truck combined
                                                       with the loading or application rate
                                                       can be used to determine how much
                                                       ground one load of material should
                                                       cover. A bulldozer can then spread
                                                       the amendment evenly over the
                                                       ground. With the right kind of
                                                       ground (level to gently sloping and
                                                       sufficiently dry soils, this can be a
                                                       quick and cost effective application
technology. The bulldozer will have sufficient traction to drive on ground that has already
received application. The process should be staged so that the dump trucks (which will not have
sufficient traction) dump at the far end of the site first, then move forward.

   Application vehicle with cannon

   An application system suited to liquid amendments is a vehicle with a tank and spray nozzle
mounted on the rear. Depending on the site needs, a specially designed all-terrain vehicle may be
used or a simple heavy-duty truck chassis
with rear mounted tank may be acceptable.
Each of these types of systems has been
demonstrated to be effective in the Pacific
Northwest. The operation of these systems
is relatively simple.  A biosolids source,
where biosolids are transferred into the
application vehicle,  is available either at the
treatment plant, through a delivery truck or
from onsite storage. Once full, the vehicle
moves into the site and unloads the
biosolids in uniform layers while the vehicle
is moving or stationary. When empty, the
vehicle returns to the biosolids source for a
refill and repeats the cycle.

   Application vehicle with rear discharge

   There are also vehicles that have been specifically designed to apply amendments to
agricultural sites.  These typically have flotation tires and a carrying capacity of about 10-18
yards of material. They spread biosolids or manures from the rear of the box with a fan or splash
plate. The width of the  spread is comparable to the width of the vehicle. Changing the speed of
the vehicle as well as the speed of the fan can alter application rates. These vehicles are excellent

July 2005
                            Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
                                                  for operating on wet soils. The flotation
                                                  tires give generally excellent traction and
enable access to areas that may not be possible with conventional equipment. They can spread
high or low rates of amendments onto the surface
of a soil. In cases where incorporation is required,
additional equipment is required. Rear-discharge
application vehicles can also be set up with sub-
surface injection equipment. Sub-surface injection
requires a low solids content to function properly.
Water can be added to the amendment before
application to achieve sufficiently low % solids. It
may be appropriate for reclamation projects with
relatively low application rates.

   Side cast spreader

   Another type of application vehicle is a side cast spreader, capable of throw distances of up
to 200 ft. Throw distance is dependent on the moisture content of the amendment, with wetter
material (that clumps together) having a greater throw distance than drier materials such as
composts. Application rates can be controlled with this spreader by adjusting the speed of the
vehicle as well as the speed of the fan. The spreader can be mounted on a range of vehicles,
ranging from simple truck chassis to agricultural application vehicle with high floatation tires to
all-terrain logging forwarders. Reclamation efforts at mine sites have used an Aerospread
mounted on surplus army vehicles. The type of vehicle that is required is especially useful on
very steep or debris-filled sites.

July 2005
Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
   Manure-type spreader

   Farm equipment that has been
designed for manure spreading also
works well for many types of soil
reclamation projects. A common design
is a wagon pulled by a tractor. Typically,
these discharge out the back with a big
rotary brush. Application rates using this
type  of equipment are usually relatively
light, so repeated applications are usually


   Incorporation of high rates of amendment mixtures similarly requires the proper equipment
and equipment operators. The low % solids of some amendments means that when you are
                                      making a 100 dry t/ac application, you may actually be
                                      applying up to 500 wet t/ac of material. Generally a
                                      large track bulldozer (such as a Caterpiller D7) pulling
                                      a 36" disk is required. Smaller equipment may just
                                      float on the surface of the biosolids mixture. Large
                                      chisel plows also exist that are capable of
                                      incorporating the amendments. When you are
                                      incorporating high rates of amendments it will not be
                                      possible to achieve a completely homogenous mixture.
                                      However, the effectiveness of the amendment is
                                      usually better when mixed as evenly as possible.
   Subsoiler with brush rake attachment

   A special subsoiler with brush rake attachment
was designed by Mike Karr and Jim Archuleta on
the Diamond Lake Ranger District, Umpqua NF.
Wood chips and biosolids were applied to the soil
surface area prior to subsoiling. The ripper teeth on
the end of an extended arm then can both break up
the compacted roadbed and  incorporate the
amendment at the same time.

                                               An excavator has been used with excellent
                                            results decommissioning logging roads along the
                                            1-90 corridor in Washington. First, the excavator
                                            rips the roadbed, then pulls up the fill material,
                                            placing it in the road prism; the goal is to
                                            recreate the original slope. The excavator bucket
                                            then grabs compost that has been placed evenly
                                            in plies along the road, and distributes it in about
                                            a two inch layer. In this case, volunteers seed
                                            with a sterile winter wheat, and then cover the
                                            whole area with weed-free straw for immediate
                                            erosion protection.

July 2005                    Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
Monitoring to Assess Success

   Monitoring is often overlooked in the planning stage of restoration projects. The monitoring
plan should be written before the project is implemented and the project objectives should be
clearly identified.

   Vegetative response

   Vegetative establishment measurements

   The primary  vegetation measurements methods include vegetative cover, plant biomass,
plant density, and plant diversity. Two excellent references for measuring and analyzing
vegetation include Canopy Coverage Method of Vegetation Analysis by Daubenmire (1959) and
Aims and Methods of Vegetation Ecology by Mueller-Dombois and Ellenberg (1974). In addition
to quantitative methods list below, color photographs and observations of the site conditions can
be invaluable to reporting results.

   Vegetative Cover

   Vegetative cover is the percentage of ground surface covered by vegetation and is important
in evaluating soil erosion. It is generally best suited for plants smaller than 3 ft in height. It is
considered to be a better indicator of ecological significance than plant density (Dabenmire
1959),  and allows for consecutive measurements trends in plant growth over time without
disturbing the plants. Cover changes through the growing season and subjectivity of the
measurement can be reduced by taking the measurement at the same time of year.

   Plant biomass

   Plant biomass is considered to be a better estimate of plant productivity than vegetative cover
for evaluating the long-term effects of the treatments on plant growth. However, this is a
destructive method that requires harvesting the plants. The above-ground plant biomass is
harvested by cutting the stem at the soil surface, sorted by species, and dried in a 70° C oven for
24 hours. The final biomass weight is then recorded by species for each plot. It is labor intensive
and costly.

   Plant density

   Plant density is the number of plants per area used to measure the size of plant populations
within  a study area.  It is the most sensitive technique to changes caused by mortality or
recruitment. The number and size of plots within a larger study area is determined based upon
the size of plants and the size of the study area. Generally, plots 10 ft2 are used and methods for
locating sample plots are discussed in detail in Muller-Dubois and Ellenberg (1974). The plots
are located using either random or stratified selection methods. The stems within the plot are
counted and recorded for each species. This information can then be averaged for each treatment
and compared between treatments.

   Plant diversity

   Measurement of plant diversity is another non-destructive method. Species diversity
compares the evenness of abundance among species. Unlike other methods of abundance (e.g.
density, biomass), each species' frequency of occurrence is the contribution to the overall species
richness. The supply of the most limiting resource can control species diversity. Two indices
used to compare data are the Shannon-Weiner diversity index and the MacArthur-Wilson
diversity index.

July 2005                     Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
   Physical Soil Measurements

   Soils with high organic matter generally have higher soil porosity, increased pore volume and
decreased bulk density, resulting in increased infiltration capacity (Linsley et al. 1982). These
measurements can be made prior to restoration and periodically following restoration to examine
the effects of the treatment.

   Soil-water infiltration capacity

   Infiltration capacity is the maximum rate of water entering the soil surface (Dunne and
Leopold 1978). This rate is dependent upon many factors including the soil texture, soil
structure, moisture content, shrink/swell properties, and organic matter. Cylinder infiltrometers
can be used to measure the rate at which water enters the soil.

   Bulk density

   Bulk density is the ratio of the mass of dry  solids to the bulk volume of the soil occupied by
the dry solids (Hillel 1998), usually measured in situ. High bulk density will impede water
infiltration and plant rooting, thus effectively reducing plant productivity. Incorporation of
compost into soil reduces the bulk density.

   One way of measuring bulk density is using a cylindrical metal sampler with coring devices
driven into the soil.  The soils are dried for 24 hours in a 100 degree C for 24 hours and then
weighed. The volume of soil within each core is directly measured and calculated. When large
rocks are in the soils, or the soils are very compacted, this method doesn't work. Another method
is to excavate a hole and determine the volume of the hole by filling it with measured amounts of
sand. The material excavated is saved, dried and weighed.

   C:N ratio

   The carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N) represents the current status of carbon decomposition
processes and nitrogen availability. If the compost being added to the soil has a high C:N ratio
(>30:1), then decomposition is retarded. If the material added to the soil has a low C:N ratio, the
loss of nitrogen occurs from mechanisms like nitrate leaching, volatilization or runoff. As
compost decomposes, the C:N ratio in the soil changes, affecting the availability of nitrogen to
plants. Measurement of carbon and nitrogen is  done  in the laboratory. Measurements can be
arranged with a local extension service or local soils laboratory.

July 2005                    Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration

                                Successful projects

Chelan Road Adjacent Cutsopes, WA

Project Sponsor: Washington State Department of Transportation.
Location: Chelan, Washington. State Route 971.
Description: The project involved stabilization of a road adjacent cutslope that had a history of
    chronic surface erosion with rilling and associated accumulated debris in the ditchline. The
    project involved re-shaping the slope to 1.5:1 slope and constructing bender board fencing
    terraces, and application of <1: Class A biosolids compost, and revegetation. The biosolids
    compost was incorporated into the top soil surface. Native plants used in revegetation
    included service berry (Amelanchier alnifolia), snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), blue
    elderberry (Sambucus ceulea), mock orange (Philideloophus lewisii), Ponderosa pine (Pinus
    ponderosa), squaw current (Ribes cereum(, and a native seed mix.
Size of Project: 630 feet long by 70 feet wide.
Implementation: The project began in November 1999, with the majority of the work
    completed by April 2000.
Objective: The objectives were to accelerate native plant establishment and provide long-term
    site recovery.
Site Description: The site is located on the Eastside Cascade Mountains near Chelan,
Monitoring Results: Biosolids compost was applied  to two-thirds of the slope with the
    remaining one-third of the slope left untreated as a control. During construction, the field
    crew noticed a large difference between the treated and untreated areas in the ability to
    construct the terraces and pound in rebar. The soil was much easier to work in the areas
    treated with biosolids compost.
    Two months after completion (June 2000), the bender board appeared to  have stabilized the
    slope and dramatically reduced erosion.

July 2005
Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
Umpqua, OR
Project Partners:
   Bureau of Land Management -Roseburg, Oregon
   Umpqua National Forest -Roseburg, Oregon
   Oregon Department of Environmental Quality-Roseburg, Oregon
   Northwest Biosolids Management Association- Seattle, Washington
   City of Medford-Water Restoration Facility, Oregon
   Weyerhaeuser Company-Wilbur Oregon
Location: Little Rock Creek, Oregon
Description: Research plots were established on an abandoned road surface to compare soil
   restoration treatments. Treatments included subsoiling (deep ripping), subsoiling through 3"
   of woodchips, and subsoiling with 3" woodchips and biosolids (140 N-lbs/acre). The plots
   were then seeded with Elymus glaucus and planted with Douglas-fir seedlings.
Size of Project: 7000 m2
Implementation: The project was implemented to demonstrate the benefits of utilizing slash
   piles after harvest and recycling biosolids from municipal treatment plants to help activate
   and restore the belowground processes to severely impacted soils. The findings from  this
   project will  help managers during road, landing, yarding or mine tailing restoration. The
   project was  implemented in the spring and fall of 2001.
Objective: The project objective is to recycle and utilize municipal biosolids and material from
   wood slash piles as a soil amendment to improve soil tilth, reduce erosion, and improve the
   water holding capacity, and nutrient holding capacity.
Site Description: The study site is located on the Westside Cascade Mountains at 4,000 feet
   elevation. Many of the problems associated with revegetating disturbed sites at this elevation
   are due to temperature and moisture extremes.
Monitoring Results: Initial visual observations indicate improved vegetation cover compared to
   a control. There appears to be a significant increase in Microarthopod activity on the  sites
   treated with both biosolids and wood chips.
                                                 Road treated
                                                with biosolids

July 2005
Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
Hansen Creek Road Obliteration, WA
Project Partners:
   Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Snoqualmie Ranger District
   Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust
Location: South Fork Snoqualmie watershed, located 47 miles east of Seattle.
Description: Restoration consisted of obliteration of forest logging roads through removal of all
   culverts and associated fill materials, and ripping and outsloping of the road surface. An
   application of 5 cm of biosolids compost, 5-10 cm of hay mulch, and winter wheat seed was
   immediately applied following restoration in August 2000. The road was outsloped to match
   the natural slope and averaged 58% slope gradient.
Size of Project: Three miles of forest logging road, with a total restoration of approximately
   nine acres.
Implementation: The project was implemented through a partnership with the Mountains to
   Sound Greenway Trust. The Greenway Trust is a non-profit conservation group of citizens,
   businesses and government agencies. The roads were obliterated in July 2000 and
   immediately treated with biosolids compost, hay and winter wheat seed.
Objective: The project objectives were to reduce the risk of mass failures, improve soil water
   infiltration rates, reduce surface erosion, and provide conditions that would favor the  re-
   establishment of native vegetation.
Site Description: The elevation of the study site is 951 meters with an eastern aspect. The
   geology of the site is intrusive granitic rocks on steep sideslopes. The area receives
   approximately 250 cm of precipitation annually,  with much of this in the form of snow.
Monitoring Results: A two-year study was initiated along a 700 meter section of road to
   examine the effects of the use of organic soil amendment, seed, and hay mulch treatments in
   road obliteration (Bergeron 2003). Biosolids compost and winter wheat seed application
   resulted in substantially improved vegetative cover and biomass. The single application of
   organic matter was shown to promote plant growth, and eventually, as the plants die and
   decompose, the soil properties are expected  to continue to improve.
Hansen Creek Road Obliteration:
Two years following restoration.
                                                    •^K. *£

July 2005                    Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
Buffalo Creek Fire Site

Project Partners:
   Colorado State University
   U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 8
   Denver Metro Wastewater Reclamation District
   USDA Forest Service, Pike National Forest
Location: Buffalo Creek fire site in Pike National Forest, approximately 14 mi. SE of Pine
Description: Restoration consisted of application of biosolids compost to a severely burned,
   previously forested site near Buffalo Creek, CO. to assess ecosystem recovery. In May 1996,
   a high-intensity, fast-moving, stand-replacing crown fire burned approximately 4900 ha of
   forested land.
Size of Project: Approximately 24 ha.
Implementation: The project was a cooperative study among Colorado State University, U.S.
   Environmental Protection Agency Region 8, Denver Metro Wastewater Reclamation District,
   and USDA Forest Service, Pike National  Forest. Denver Metro Wastewater Reclamation
   District  prepared the plots first with a dozer, than applied the compost at rates of 0, 5,  10, 20,
   40 and 80 Mg ha-1 .  After compost application, the plots were disked, and seeded with a
   grass mixture at the rate of 34 kg ha-1 by the Forest Service.
   Study 1: To determine the effects  of a one-time application of up to 80 Mg ha-1 dry
   composted biosolids on ecosystem recovery as measured by changes in plant canopy cover,
   biomass production,  plant tissue and soil concentrations of N, P, and Zn, and total soil C and
   N contents (Meyer et al. 2004).
   Study 2: To determine runoff quantity and runoff quality from a burned site as affected by
   biosolids application rate (Meyer  et al. 2001).
Site Description: The elevation of the study  site is 2235 meters. The area receives
   approximately 520 mm of precipitation annually, with 75% occurring  in spring and summer.
   Mean annual temperature is 8°C. Soils at the study site are developed from Pike's Peak
   granite, and are contained in the Sphinx soil series.
Monitoring Results: Total plant biomass generally increased with increasing  compost
   application rate, while bare ground generally decreased with increasing rate. Biosolids
   application rates did  not significantly affect mean total runoff. Sediment concentrations were
   greater from the control plots compared with the plots that had received compost. The
   increase in productivity and cover resulting from the use of biosolids can aid in the
   rehabilitation of wildfire sites and reduce soil erosion in ecosystems similar to the Buffalo
   Creek area.

July 2005                    Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration

Lessons Learned

    Thoughts from: David McDonald, Seattle Public Utilities

    How would nature do it? Restoration projects in urban, sub-urban, managed forests and true
wildland areas all have a common requirement: successful plant establishment (and the resulting
long-term erosion control, habitat benefits, etc) depend most of all on placing site-adapted plants
in an optimal soil environment. The best way to select an effective soil preparation strategy is to
ask three questions:

    1)  "What's the soil like on the site now, especially with respect to compaction, drainage,
       particle size, and organic content at the surface, root zone, and below the root zone?"

    2)  "What are the soil conditions like where the plants selected for restoration thrive in the

    3)  "What's the most cost-effective strategy to make the site's soil environment optimal for
       these selected plants?"

    Some general observations emerge from a variety of restoration projects around the

    Right plant, right place, right soil. Most plants used for restoration in the Northwest,
whether woodland, wetland, or meadow species thrive in a high organic content soil, and  adding
organic matter to disturbed/degraded sites is usually critical to success. But some plants like bare
rocky slopes or beach sand. Always observe site and  soil conditions where that plant thrives, and
try to match them.

    Lousy soil plus organic matter plus time creates healthy soil, which supports healthy
plants. Organic matter, in nature and restoration, feeds the soil organisms that create:

    •   Soil structure (air, water, and root penetration, and resistance to compaction)

    •   Nutrient cycling and plant availability of nutrients, endlessly (since terrestrial life  began)

    •   Plant disease protection (through competition, predation, and systematic induced

    •   Soil erosion resistance, fine sediment capture, and biofiltration of introduced pollutants.

    Mix organic amendments into rooting zone where possible, surface apply where not.
Degraded, compacted soils are most quickly improved by mixing from 10% to 25% organic
amendment by volume into the whole site before planting. But if there are existing tree roots to
preserve, or the site is steep, it's better to top-dress with several inches of coarse textured  organic
matter, and let the soil organisms incorporated it over time.

    Amend the existing site soil with organic matter, rather than bringing in soil mixes,
wherever possible. Use the on-site mineral component and amend it with organic matter, to
avoid the weed seeds and incompatible soil texture problems (excess fines) often associated with
imported soil mixes.

    Composted materials are the best for soil incorporation. Composting ties up free soluble
nutrients into forms that don't readily wash off but are slowly made available to plants by the
soil food web. Composting buffers pH and mineral imbalances. And composting reduces  weed
seeds and plant pathogenic organisms, while greatly increasing plant-protective organisms. Un-
composted woody materials may use up soil nitrogen temporarily when incorporated-they're
better used a surface applied mulch. And un-composted materials are more likely to introduce
weed seeds.

July 2005                    Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration

    Some woody plants establish better with loose, low-organic soil and lots of organic
mulch on the surface. Again, look at the actual soil organic content and structure in sites where
that plant thrives.

    Coarse woody mulches are better than fine textured materials. Chunky mulches let more
air and water in, whereas fine-textured mulches (where most of the material would pass through
a 1/2 inch screen)  are more likely to crust and impair penetration.

    Native lowland Northwest plants compete in a higher carbon, lower nitrogen soil mix,
compared to introduced horticultural and weed species. Compost for landscape/horticultural
uses should have a carbon/nitrogen (C:N) ratio below 25:1. But Northwest natives which evolved
in the high carbon environment of rooting forest duff grow better where compost or other
organic amendments have a C:N ratio as high as 35:1. Practically, that usually means more wood
in the mix. At the  other extreme, many introduced annual or perennial "weed" species thrive in
high nitrogen conditions.

    Generally, yard waste or wood waste derived composts will have lower soluble nitrogen
and phosphorous than biosolids or manure derived composts. But that depends on how much
woody or other high-carbon material it was mixed with and how long and completely it's been
composted. Soluble nutrients are obviously a concern close to sensitive water bodies, whereas
nutrients that are well bound in the organic compost matrix are unlikely to be released at rates
that create a water pollution problem.

    Compost berms and blankets are cost-effective erosion and sediment control strategies
for restoration sites as well as development sites. Several inches of coarse-textured compost (a
"blanket") has proven to be often more effective than straw, jute mats, or other traditional
surface erosion  control measures, as well as being more compatible with restoration sites while
providing soil improvement and plant establishment benefits. Compost "berms" 12-24 inches
high are often more effective than traditional silt fence in site sediment control, as well as bio-
filtering road runoff and other pollutants. They can be scattered or left on-site, again providing
soil and plant benefits.

    Small amounts of native soil and duff may have value as inoculants and seed sources.
Almost all terrestrial plants require specific micorrhizal fungi to thrive and sometimes certain
bacteria or other soil organisms. When establishing natives on very damaged/degraded sites
where native plants have not grown in recent years, it may be worth inoculating the site with a
small  amount of soil from a location where these plants thrive, to reintroduce the needed
micorrhizal species.

    Fit the strategy to the site. In smaller wildland restorations, especially remote from roads, it
may be possible to harvest duff from nearby sites to introduce the full array of site-adapted plant
seeds  to the site. Larger organic material such as logs and branches can also often be salvaged
near small remote sites, and may be more effective in redirecting human traffic than  obtrusive
strings and signs on these sites. This is just one example of an observant, cost-effective strategy
that starts with the right question: "How would nature do it?"

July 2005                    Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
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July 2005                    Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration
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Dormer, J. and S. Brown. 2002. A guide to restoring a native plant community. University of
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July 2005                     Compost Use for Forest Land Restoration

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