Environmental Management

, Volume 50, Issue 6, pp 1164-1176

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Factors Affecting the Impact of Off-Road Driving on Soils in an Area in the Kruger National Park, South Africa

  • Gerhardus Petrus NortjéAffiliated withCentre for Wildlife Management, University of Pretoria Email author 
  • , Wouter van HovenAffiliated withCentre for Wildlife Management, University of Pretoria
  • , Michiel C. LakerAffiliated withCentre for Wildlife Management, University of Pretoria


Studies on the effects of off-road driving on soils were conducted in the Makuleke Contractual Park of the Kruger National Park. The studies were conducted on three different soils with different textures and soil compactibilities. Traffic pressure was applied with a game drive vehicle loaded with 11 sand bags, each weighing 70 kg. This gave a total vehicle mass of 3,795 kg, simulating a vehicle fully laden with tourists. The study included: (i) comparing of the effects of four different tyre pressures; (ii) comparing the effects of 1–3 vehicle passes over the same tyre tracks; (iii) comparison of traffic effects under dry and wet soil moisture conditions, on soil compaction, respectively. After each pass penetration resistances were measured (a) on the tyre tracks, (b) between the tyre tracks and (c) at different distances outside the tyre tracks. As expected, vehicular traffic caused soil compaction below the wheel tracks. Lower tyre pressures caused less compaction than higher tyre pressures. Fewer vehicle passes also caused less compaction than more passes on the same tracks, but most compaction occurred during the first pass. Thus, driving on the same tracks more than once is less damaging than driving once on different tracks. Controlled traffic should be considered when developing management strategies for off-road driving in wildlife protected areas.


Soil compaction Off-road driving Tyre pressure Penetration resistance Vehicle passes Vehicular traffic