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Belowground impacts of pile burning in the Inland Northwestern U.S.

Author(s): Deborah S. Page-Dumroese, Christopher R. Keyes, Martin F. Jurgensen, William J. Massman, Bret W. Butler
Year Published: 2015

Forest restoration efforts require thinning operations to reduce tree density, wildfire risk, or insect and disease conditions to improve ecosystem processes and function. However, one issue with the thinned stands is to dispose of the residues. Slash pile burning is currently used on many forest sites as a preferred method for residue disposal because they can be burned at various times of the year and are usually more controlled than broadcast burns. In some cases, fire can be beneficial to site conditions and soil properties, but often large slash piles, with a concentration of a large amount of wood, needles, forest floor, and sometimes mineral soil, can do irreversible damage. We examined the effect of burning slash piles on the fire temperature pulse and changes in soil chemical, physical, and biological changes. Findings from our research highlight (1) the importance of soil texture which alters how soil moisture is held in the mineral soil and its’ ability to temper heat movement into the mineral soil, (2) soil biological function (fungi and bacteria) becomes very limited after very hot (>500°C) fire condition, (3) soil chemical properties were altered after the fire and had not returned to pre-burn conditions at the end of our study period.

Citation: Page-Dumroese DS, Keyes CR, Jurgensen MF, Massman WJ, Butler BW, 2015. Belowground impacts of pile burning in the Inland Northwestern U.S. Final report to the Joint Fire Science Program, Project 11-1-8-2. Boise, ID: Joint Fire Science Program, 21 p.
Topic(s): Fire Ecology, Fire Effects, Ecological - First Order, Ecological - Second Order
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 15565
FRAMES RCS number: 20208
Record updated: Oct 18, 2017