Soil nutrients and microbial activity after early and late season prescribed burns in a Sierra Nevada mixed conifer forest

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Source:

FOREST ECOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT, ELSEVIER SCIENCE BV, Volume 256, Number 3, PO BOX 211, 1000 AE AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS, p.367-374 (2008)

Keywords:

fire ecology, nitrogen mineralization, Sierra Nevada, soil enzymes, soil respiration rate

Abstract:

Restoring the natural fire regime to forested systems that have experienced fire exclusion throughout the past century can be a challenge due to the heavy fuel loading conditions. Fire is being re-introduced to mixed conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada through both early season and late season prescribed burns, even though most fires historically occurred in the late season. We assessed the impact of early and late season prescribed fires on soil biogeochemical and microbiological parameters that are important for ecosystem recovery. We found that the late season burns had more dramatic short-term effects on soil abiotic conditions (temperature, moisture and pH), mineral soil carbon levels, total inorganic nitrogen, and microbial activity than the early season burns, relative to unburned sites, suggesting a higher severity burn. However, the total soil nitrogen pools and fluxes and soil respiration rates were not differentially impacted by burn season. These burn season effects suggest that soil variables may be regulated more strongly by fire severity than by the season in which the prescribed fire is conducted. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.