Thanks for sharing Dehoja. As mentioned in the article, soil compaction is a very real concern that we hammockers should be aware of, and do our best to prevent or minimize.
There are actually not many trees, at least in the eastern forests, that have tap roots. Most tree roots are nearer the surface than you would expect in many cases, which is where the water and nutrients can be easily absorbed by the tree. A good rule of thumb is a tree's roots extend about as far as the branches extend. The surface area of the root system just about equals the surface area of the branches and limbs, due to all the microscopic root hairs where the nutrients and water actually enter the root system.
Compaction of the soil under a tree can severely impact the exchange of water and nutrients. This happens two ways. Lots of traffic under a tree wears away the duff or humus layer of the soil. This layer, or the leaf litter (bad terminology), is the first layer of soil, and is where most of the nutrients are. Which is why most of a tree's roots are just below the duff. The second is that compacted soil can't perc, or absorb water. Erosion then comes into play and starts a chain reaction of impact further downstream, literally.
The US Forest Service has a forest experiment station in western NC. Many of their research projects looked at soil erosion. The one that stands out to me is one in which they clearcut a small cove using cables and helicopters. They burned the are frequently so that very little vegetation could grow. Their aim was to see how much soil erosion actually happened, since it was/is widely assumed that clearcutting causes erosion. What they found out was the removal of trees doesn't cause erosion. Erosion happens as a result of soil compaction. Because they were careful not to damage the duff in this experiment, no soil was lost. (On a practical level, most logging operations don't use helicopters because of the expense, so in effect erosion does often happen in a clearcutting operation. The erosion is a direct result of the machinery compacting the soil, not simply because the trees have been cut.)
One of my concerns when selecting a site to hang is how much impact will I have on the site, mainly in terms of soil compaction, especially if it is a stealth site. Walking back and forth between trees to set up can really wear down the duff in a hurry. Minimizing trips to get water, pee, cook, etc should be taken into account, IMO. Generally, I'm not as concerned with how much stress is generated by tree straps. (This has been the topic of recent threads.) Trees are really tough plants, and are amazing how they are adapted to their particular ecosystems.
So, when it comes to camping there will be a measurable impact on the forest, notably in a compacted area of soil in the forest that is the campsite. There are a couple of different ways to manage human impact. One is to concentrate the use. The other is to spread that impact over a wider area. Leave No Trace ethics use some of both principles.
This is an important topic for us to discuss as a community. As we spread the hammock gospel, gain converts, and send them into the woods to spread the message, we need to do so responsibly. There are places where hanging from trees is already managed (i.e. prohibited). We should be at the front end of promoting good hanging technique (which Hammock Forums already does) so that when need arrises, hopefully we can help write good policy for the state and federal lands that we enjoy.
Thanks for sharing the article and the story. That's always an important thing to remember.
Last edited by Meriadoc; 10-17-2011 at 19:55.
"Not all those who wander are lost."
Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Blog
Apparently Florida state parks have prohibited hammocks.
Dejoha, I liked your quote--
"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit."
-- Nelson Henderson
Thanks for sharing it.
"You can stand tall without standing on someone. You can be a victor without having victims." --Harriet Woods
I truly believe that hammock camping tends to have less impact on the environment than tent camping if done thoughtfully, but it still has impact & it's a good thing to think about how we can be more stealth like.
I often think about the things Detail Man talks about in the quote above when I select a spot to hang.
I absolutely love being near ferns for example, but sure don't want to hang were I know my hammock foot traffic will be crushing them.
When you take your hammock down it's often easy to see were you've been, especially the more leisure time & days you spend in one spot.
Even the duff shows, like Detail Man talks about. I usually try to kick the leaves back over the most worn spots after taking another look to see if anything has been left behind.
don`t leave the CREATOR out of the creation!
Lots of good info. Thanks!
good info and article
this, to me, is quite assinine when a majority of Florida's coast line is developedApparently Florida state parks have prohibited hammocks.
(trail impact at it's greatest)
look at these definitions alone:
What Is the Coast?
Many definitions are used for
“coast.” The simplest probably is
“the land adjacent to the sea.” But
coast can mean different things in
different contexts. A political definition might be the counties adjacent
to the sea or the states adjacent to
the sea. An environmental definition
might be land that drains to the sea
or watersheds of streams that drain
directly to the sea. One scientific
definition of coast is “the space in
which terrestrial environs interact
with marine environs and vice versa.”
Doubtless, many others exist. For our
purposes, having one definition of
“coast” or “coastal” is of no benefit.
From the broadest definition to the
narrowest, the definition that best
fits the circumstances is used
the word Coast Line can't even be properly discerned
much less the 'impact' of people hugging trees.
Obviously, someone is putting money in the pockets of those who have capitalistic ventures. I just find it hard to believe a handful of hangers
would make hanging illegal in FL.
What a load of ......
Thanks for the well-thought out post....
Yes, walking and compressing the soil underfoot can have a negative impact on plants and trees. For those that hike the backcountry, perhaps taking the site less-used will spread that impact out and help reduce the trampling that occurs in the more heavily used sites. I suppose that natural processes counteract some compaction, below a certain threshold.
Even ground fires can have a profound effect on a tree 60 feet away, destroying live roots, allowing microbial disease to take hold...
I find it amazing that as we try to protect nature, and get closer to it, we may be doing more damage...
When I was a kid, you could walk right up to the Giant Sequoias and touch them. Now you walk a fenced path 60' away.
For me: in a high use area, I would have no argument to using a built-in hammock stand, for that reason. It's still cool to find our own natural sites, though...
Thanks for passing that lesson along!
Thanks for sharing the article and your thoughts on it all dejoha. I know that my hanging spot in the back yard is showing signs of wear after about a dozen nights of total use in the past 6 months. I'm experiencing site creep, with the grass wearing away and the bare soil underneath starting to show. Unfortunately its the only hanging site I have in my back yard at this time and it looks as if I'll need to reduce the frequencies of my test hangs. And the only thing I do is walk on it. No bits of Tyvek or plastic to lay things on, no breakfast from the hammock, no small camp fires, just enough foot traffic to setup my tarp and hammock and that alone is causing issues. So now I must go out and purchase something to cover and protect the ground to encourage new growth. Also I need to plant more trees so that I can vary my hanging options even though they won't be mature enough for at least 5 years.