Soil organic matter in a ponderosa pine forest with varying seasons and intervals of prescribed burn

TitleSoil organic matter in a ponderosa pine forest with varying seasons and intervals of prescribed burn
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsHatten J.A, Zabowski D., Ogden A., Thies W.
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Pagination2555 - 2565
Date Published2008/04//
ISBN Number0378-1127
KeywordsBlue Mountains, Carbon, Forest soil, Fulvic acid, Humic acid, Humin, Nitrogen, Pinus ponderosa, Prescribed burning

Prescribed burning is used to reduce fuel loads and return ponderosa pine forests of the Western U.S. to their historical structure and function. The impact of prescribed burning on soil is dependent on fire severity which is largely managed by burning in the fall or the spring; frequency of fire will also regulate long-term fire impacts. The objective of this study was to determine if soils and soil organic matter (SOM) were affected by prescribed burning in the fall or the spring using singular or multiple prescribed burns. Prescribed burning was initiated in the spring of 1997 and fall of 1997 at 5-year intervals and once during a 15-year period on a study site located within the Malheur National Forest of the southern Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon. Soils were sampled by major genetic horizon in 2004. The 5-year interval plots had burned twice with 1-2 years of recovery while the 15-year interval plots had burned only once with 6-7 years of recovery. Samples were analyzed for pH, carbon (C), nitrogen (N), C/N ratio, cation exchange capacity, base saturation, water repellency, and humic substance composition by alkali extraction. Fall burning decreased C and N capital of the soil (O horizon +30 cm depth mineral soil) by 22-25%. Prescribed burning did not have an effect on fulvic or humic acid C concentration (FA and HA, respectively) of the mineral soil and only a minor effect on FA and HA concentration of the O horizon. One or two fall burns decreased humin and the alkali non-soluble C (NS) content of O horizon by 15 and 30%, respectively. Initiating fall burning in fire-suppressed stands may not preserve soil C, N, humin, and NS content, but may replicate the natural fire regime. Spring burning using a return interval of 5 or more years reduces the fuel load while having little impact on soil C, N, and SOM composition and may be used to prepare a site for subsequent fall burns. ?? 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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