Soil Management in Habitat Restoration

Proper soil management during the construction phase of a project will aid the rapid restoration of habitats once a project is complete. Topsoil and Subsoil are stripped before construction activities and stored to be used at the end of the project in reinstatement of the ground.

Topsoil is a valuable resource due to its fertility. Subsoil whilst not as fertile as topsoil, is still important because of the role it plays in storing and transmitting water. Before beginning work on site, topsoil and subsoil is striped from the areas that will be disturbed by construction activities.

To enable soils to be reused on site at a later stage, it needs to be stored in temporary stockpiles to minimise any damage or loss of function. Factors to consider when stockpiling soils include soil erosion, pollution to watercourses and the risk of flooding. These will be affected by the size, height and method of forming your stockpiles, and how they are protected and maintained.

Where soils have been maintained correctly during construction they will remain viable ensuring that the seedbank held in the top soil is able to naturally regenerate. It is always better to allow natural regeneration to take place after any major construction project. Plants most suited to that location, its specific soil conditions and micro-climate, will establish quicker and with less requirement for nutrient input or additional works such as strimming or supplementary seeding (where the first attempts at seeding have not proved as successful as hoped). 

Furthermore local varieties and unique genetic variants of plants will tolerate local conditions far better than imported material. In addition local pollinating invertebrates will be in situ to accelerate the lifecycles and colonisation of native plants on a formerly bare site.

Stewart Parsons