Soil damage caused by logging operations conducted to obtain and maximize economic benefits has been established as having long-term effects on forest soil quality and productivity. However, a comprehensive study of the impact of logging operations on earthworms as a criterion for soil recovery has never been conducted in the Hyrcanian forests of Iran. The aim of this study was to determine the changes in soil biological properties (earthworm density and biomass) and its recovery process under the influence of traffic intensity, slope and soil depth in various intervals according to age after logging operations. Soil properties were compared among abandoned skid trails with different ages (i.e., 3, 10, 20, and 25 years) and an undisturbed area. The results showed that earthworm density and biomass in the high traffic intensity and slope class of 20–30% at the 10–20 cm depth of the soil had the lowest value compared to the other treatments. Twenty-five years after the logging operations, the earthworm density at soil depth of 0–10 and 10–20 cm was 28.4% (0.48 ind. m−2
) and 38.6% (0.35 ind. m−2
), which were less than those of the undisturbed area, respectively. Meanwhile, the earthworm biomass at a soil depth of 0–10 and 10–20 cm was 30.5% (2.05 mg m−2
) and 40.5% (1.54 mg m−2
) less than the values of the undisturbed area, respectively. The earthworm density and biomass were positively correlated with total porosity, organic carbon and nitrogen content, while negatively correlated with soil bulk density and C/N ratio. According to the results, 25 years after logging operations, the earthworm density and biomass on the skid trails were recovered, but they were significantly different with the undisturbed area. Therefore, full recovery of soil biological properties (i.e., earthworm density and biomass) takes more than 25 years. The conclusions of our study reveal that the effects of logging operations on soil properties are of great significance, and our understanding of the mechanism of soil change and recovery demand that harvesting operations be extensively and properly implemented.
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