Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 14, Issue 9, pp 1801–1813 | Cite as

Modeling of forest soil and litter health using disturbance and landscape heterogeneity indicators in northern Iran

  • Malihe Erfani
  • Abdolrassoul Salmanmahiny
  • Afshin Danehkar
  • Vahid Etemad


This paper focuses on the indicators of soil and litter health, disturbance, and landscape heterogeneity as a tool for prediction of ecosystem sustainability in the northern forests of Iran. The study area was divided into spatial homogenous sites using slope, aspect, and soil humidity classes. Then a range of sites along the disturbance gradient was selected for sampling. Chemical and physical indicators of soil and litter health were measured at random points within these sites. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was applied to link six constructs of landscape heterogeneity, three constructs of disturbance (harvest, livestock, and human accessibility), and soil and litter health. The results showed that with decreasing accessibility, the total N and organic matter content of soil increased and effective bulk density decreased. Harvesting activities increased soil organic matter. Therefore, it is concluded that disturbances through harvesting and accessibility inversely affect the soil health. Unexpectedly, it was found that the litter total C and C:N ratio improved with an increase in the harvest and accessibility disturbances, whereas litter bulk density decreased. Investigation of tree composition revealed that in the climax communities, which are normally affected more by harvesting activities, some species like Fagus orientalis Lipsky with low decomposition rate are dominant. The research results showed that changes in disturbance intensity are reflected in litter and soil indicators, whereas the SEM indicated that landscape heterogeneity has a moderator effect on the disturbance to both litter and soil paths.


Soil health Forest litter Structural equation modeling (SEM) Partial least squares (PLS) Ecosystem approach Northern Iran 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



The authors would like to acknowledge the Head and Staff of Kheyrud Educational and Research Forest Center, The University of Tehran for their assistance during the fieldworks.


  1. Ad-hoc-AG Boden (2005) Manual of soil mapping. The Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources. 5th edition. Hannover, Germany.Google Scholar
  2. Asli A, Eter H (1969) Forest management project of College Experimental Forest at Noshahr. Publishing and Printing Institute, Vol 16, Tehran, Iran. (In Persian)Google Scholar
  3. Bailey RG (2009) Ecosystem Geography. Second Edition. Springer, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bautista-Cruz A, Del Castillom RF, Etchevers-Barra JD, et al. (2012) Selection and interpretation of soil quality indicators for forest recovery after clearing of a tropical montane cloud forest in Mexico. Forest Ecology and Management 277: 74–80. Scholar
  5. Berenji Tehrani F, Majnounian B, Abdi E, Zahedi Amiri Gh (2014) The impact of forest road on plant species diversity, organic matter and carbon content (Case study: Patom district of Kheyroud forest). Journal of Forest Sustainable Development 1: 29–43. (In Persian)Google Scholar
  6. Bini D, Santos CA, Carmo KB, et al. (2013) Effects of land use on soil organic carbon and microbial processes associated with soil health in southern Brazil. European Journal of Soil Biology 55: 117–123. Scholar
  7. Binkley D, Singer F, Kaye M, Rochelle R (2003) Influence of elk grazing on soil properties in Rocky Mountain National Park. Forest Ecology and Management 185: 239–247. Scholar
  8. Blake G, Hartge K (1986) Bulk density. In: Klute A (Eds.), Methods of soil analysis: Part 1-physical and mineralogical methods. Madison, American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America. pp 363–375.Google Scholar
  9. Bremner JM (1996) Nitrogen-total. In: Sparks DL, Page AL, Helmke PA, et al. (Eds.), Methods of soil analysis, American Society of agronomy, Inc. Madison, Wisconsin. pp 1085–1122.Google Scholar
  10. Cardoso EJBN, Vasconcellos RLF, Bini D, et al. (2013) Soil health: looking for suitable indicators. What should be considered to assess the effects of use and management on soil health? Scientia Agricola 70: 274–289. Scholar
  11. Chabala LM, Mulolwa A, Lungu O (2013) Landform classification for digital soil mapping in the Chongwe-Rufunsa area, Zambia, Agriculture. Forestry and Fisheries 2: 156–160. Scholar
  12. Cools N, Vesterdal L, De Vos B, et al. (2014) Tree species is the major factor explaining C:N ratios in European forest soils. Forest Ecology and Management 311: 3–16. Scholar
  13. Czyz EA, Tomaszewska J, Dexter AR (2001) Response of spring barley to changes of compaction and aeration of sandy soil under model conditions. International Agrophysics 15: 9–12.Google Scholar
  14. Dahwa E, Mudzengi CP, Hungwe T, et al. (2013) Influence of grazing intensity on soil properties and shaping herbaceous plant communities in semi-arid Dambo Wetlands of Zimbabwe. Journal of Environmental Protection 4: 1181–1188. Scholar
  15. Davari A, Rezazadeh A (2015) Structural equation modeling with PLS. second edition. Iranian Students Booking Agency, Tehran. (In Persian)Google Scholar
  16. Department of Forestry and Forest Economics (1982) Forest management project of Namkhane section of education and research faculty forest (Kheyruk kenar). University of Tehran, Tehran. (In Persian)Google Scholar
  17. Department of Forestry and Forest Economics (1984) The first revision of forest management project of Patom section of education and research forest (Kheyruk kenar). University of Tehran, Tehran. (In Persian)Google Scholar
  18. Department of Forestry and Forest Economics (1995) Second revision of forest management project of Patom section of education and research forest (Kheyruk kenar). University of Tehran, Tehran. (In Persian)Google Scholar
  19. Department of Forestry and Forest Economics (1999) First revision of forest management project of Namkhane section of education and research forest (Kheyruk kenar). University of Tehran, Tehran. (In Persian)Google Scholar
  20. Department of Forestry and Forest Economics (2009) Forest management project of Gorazbon section. University of Tehran’s Kheyrud experimental forest in northern Iran. University of Tehran, Tehran. (In Persian)Google Scholar
  21. Dorana JW (2002) Soil health and global sustainability: translating science into practice. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 88: 119–127. Scholar
  22. Dyck WJ, Cole DW, Comerford NB (2012) Impacts of Forest Harvesting on Long-Term Site Productivity. Technology & Engineering, London.Google Scholar
  23. Ehyaea A, Behbahanizadeh M (1993) Description of soil chemical analysis methods. Research Institute of Soil and Water, Tehran.Google Scholar
  24. Eisenhauer N, Bowker M, Grace J, Powell J (2015) From patterns to causal understanding: structural equation modeling (SEM) in soil ecology. Pedobiologia 58: 65–72. Scholar
  25. Etemad V (2006) Final report of social-economic studies on watershed 46 and part of watershed 45 (in boarder of research faculty forest). University of Tehran. Tehran. (In Persian)Google Scholar
  26. Etemad V (2011) Soil Erosion and Sediment of Kheyrud educational and research forest. University of Tehran. Tehran. (In Persian)Google Scholar
  27. Fagotti DSL, Miyauchi MYH, Oliveira AG, et al. (2012) Gradients in N-cycling attributes along forestry and agricultural land-use systems are indicative of soil capacity for N supply. Soil Use and Management 28: 292–298. Scholar
  28. FIA (2011) Phase 3 Field Guide-Soil Measurements and Sampling, Version 5.1.,accessedon14.2.11.Google Scholar
  29. Froehlich HA, Miles DWR, Robbins RW (1985) Soil bulk density recovery on compacted skid trails in central Idaho. Soil Science Society of America Journal 49: 1015–1017. Scholar
  30. Garson GD (2016) Partial Least Squares: Regression and Structural Equation Models. Asheboro, NC: Statistical Associates Publishers.Google Scholar
  31. Geisseler D, Horwath WR, Scow KM (2011) Soil moisture and plant residue addition interact in their effect on extracellular enzyme activity. Pedobiologia 54: 71–78. Scholar
  32. Geisser S (1974) A predictive approach to the random effects model. Biometrika 61: 101–107. Scholar
  33. Grace JB (2006) Structural equation modeling and natural systems. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Grace JB, Anderson TM, Olff H, Scheiner SM (2010) On the specification of structural equation models for ecological systems. Ecological Monographs 80: 67–87. Scholar
  35. Gundersen P, Ginzburg SO, Vesterdal L, et al. (2014) Forest soil carbon sink in the Nordic region. University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg.Google Scholar
  36. Hagen-Thorn A, Armolaitis K, Callesen I, Stjernquist I (2004) Macronutrients in tree stems and foliage: a comparative study of six temperate forest species planted at the same sites. Annals of Forest Science 61: 489–498. Scholar
  37. Hair JF, Hult GTM, Ringle CM, Sarstedt M (2014) A primer on partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM). Sage, Thousand Oaks.Google Scholar
  38. Hammond EH (1954) Small-scale continental landform maps. Annals Association of American Geographers 44: 33–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hammond EH (1964) Classes of land-surface form in the forty eight states, USA. Annals Association of American Geographers 54: map supplement no. 4, 1: 5,000,000.Google Scholar
  40. Hashemi SF, Hojati SM, Hosseini-Nasr SM, Jalilvand H (2012) Comparison of nutrient elements and elements retranslocation of Acer velutinum, Zelkova carpinifolia and Pinus brutia in Darabkola-Mazandaran. Iranian Journal of Forest 4: 175–185 (In Persian).Google Scholar
  41. Haynes AG, Schütz M, Buchmann N, et al. (2014) Linkages between grazing history and herbivore exclusion on decomposition rates in mineral soils of subalpine grasslands. Plant Soil 374: 579–591. Scholar
  42. Hazlett PW, Gordon AM, Voroney RP, Sibley PK (2007) Impact of harvesting and logging slash on nitrogen and carbon dynamics in soils from upland spruce forests in northeastern Ontario. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 39: 43–57. Scholar
  43. Horn R, Van den Akker JJH, Arvidson J (2000) Subsoil Compaction-Distribution, Processes and Consequences. Advances in Geo Ecology 32. Catena Verlag, Reiskirchen.Google Scholar
  44. Jacob M, Viedenz K, Polle A, Thomas FM (2010) Leaf litter decomposition in temperate deciduous forest stands with a decreasing fraction of beech (Fagus sylvatica). Oecologia 164: 1083–1094. Scholar
  45. Jafari Haghighi M (2003) Soil analysis, sampling and important physical and chemical analysis method with emphasis on theory and application basics, Nedaye zoha press. p 240.Google Scholar
  46. Johnson AE, Goulding KW (1990) The Use of Plant and Soil Analysis to Predict the Potassium Supplying Capacity of Soil. International Potash Institute, Basel. pp 177–204.Google Scholar
  47. Marshall VG (2000) Impacts of forest harvesting on biological processes in northern forest soils. Forest Ecology and Management 133: 43–60. Scholar
  48. Marvie-Mohadjer MR (2012) Silviculture. University of Tehran Press, Tehran. (In Persian)Google Scholar
  49. Maynard DG, Paré D, Thiffault E, et al. (2014) How do natural disturbances and human activities affect soils and tree nutrition and growth in the Canadian boreal forest? Environ 22: 161–178. Scholar
  50. Nave LE, Vance ED, Swanston CW, Curtis PS (2010) Harvest impacts on soil carbon storage in temperate forests. Forest Ecology and Management 259: 857–866. Scholar
  51. Neily PD, Quigley E, Benjamin L, et al. (2003) Ecological land classification for Nova Scotia, Volume 1-Mapping Nova Scotia’s Terrestrial Ecosystems. Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Renewable Resources Branch, Canada.Google Scholar
  52. Olsen SR, Cole CV, Watenabe FS, Dean LA (1954) Estimation of available phosphorus in soil by extraction with sodium bicarbonate. U.S, Department of Agriculture Circular, Washington.Google Scholar
  53. Pagliai M, Vignozzi N, Pellegrini S (2004) Soil structure and the effect of management practices. Soil and Tillage Research 79: 131–143. Scholar
  54. Relva MA, Castán E, Mazzarino MJ (2014) Litter and soil properties are not altered by invasive deer browsing in forests of NW Patagonia. Acta Oecol 54: 45–50. Scholar
  55. Richard G, Cousin I, Sillon JF, et al. (2001) Effect of compaction on the porosity of a silty soil: influence on unsaturated hydraulic properties. European Journal of Soil Science 52: 49–58. Scholar
  56. Sarmadiyan F, Jafari M (2001) The survey of soil of the Kheyrud Forest Research Station University of Tehran, Iran. Natural Resources Journal 291: 33–89 (In Persian).Google Scholar
  57. Sojka RE, Upchurch DR (1999) Reservations regarding the soil quality concept. Soil Science Society of America Journal 63: 1039–1054.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Stone M (1974) Cross-validatory choice and assessment of statistical predictions. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 36: 111–147.Google Scholar
  59. Voorhees WB (1992) Wheel-Induced Soil Physical Limitations to Root Growth. Limitations to Plant Root Growth. Ed. Hatfield JL and Stewart BA. Springer New York. pp 73–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tahmasebi P (2009) Analysis of rangeland ecosystems. Pelk Publication, Tehran.Google Scholar
  61. Walkley AJ, Black CA (1934) Estimation of organic carbon by chromic acid titration method. Soil Science 37: 29–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Yuan H, Hou F (2015) Grazing intensity and soil depth effects on soil properties in alpine meadow pastures of Qilian Mountain in northwest China, Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section B-Soil & Plant Science 65: 222–232. %252F09064710.2014.992940CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental sciences, Faculty of Natural ResourcesUniversity of ZabolZabolIran
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesGorgan University of Agricultural Sci. & Natural ResourcesGorganIran
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Natural ResourcesUniversity of TehranTehranIran
  4. 4.Department of forestry and forest economic, Faculty of Natural ResourcesUniversity of TehranTehranIran

Personalised recommendations