A JFSP Fire Science Exchange Network
Bringing People Together & Sharing Knowledge in the Northern Rockies

The phosphorus-rich signature of fire in the soil-plant system: a global meta-analysis

Author(s): Orpheus M. Butler, James J. Elser, Tom Lewis, Brendan Mackey, Chengrong Chen
Year Published: 2018

The biogeochemical and stoichiometric signature of vegetation fire may influence post-fire ecosystem characteristics and the evolution of plant ‘fire traits’. Phosphorus (P), a potentially limiting nutrient in many fire-prone environments, might be particularly important in this context; however, the effects of fire on P cycling often vary widely. We conducted a global-scale meta-analysis using data from 174 soil studies and 39 litter studies, and found that fire led to significantly higher concentrations of soil mineral P as well as significantly lower soil and litter carbon:P and nitrogen:P ratios. These results demonstrate that fire has a P-rich signature in the soil-plant system that varies with vegetation type. Further, they suggest that burning can ease P limitation and decouple the biogeochemical cycling of P, carbon and nitrogen. These effects resemble a transient reversion to an earlier stage of ecosystem development, and likely underpin at least some of fire's impacts on ecosystems and organisms.

Citation: Butler, Orpheus M.; Elser, James J.; Lewis, Tom; Mackey, Brendan; Chen, Chengrong. 2018. The phosphorus-rich signature of fire in the soil-plant system: a global meta-analysis. Ecology Letters 21(3):335-344. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.12896
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Soils, Post-fire Management
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 17361
FRAMES RCS number: 25770
Record updated: Apr 4, 2018