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Wildfire effects on soil properties in fire-prone pine ecosystems: indicators of burn severity legacy over the medium term after fire

Author(s): Víctor Fernández-García, Jessica R. Miesel, Manuel Jaime Baeza, Elena Marcos, Leonor Calvo
Year Published: 2019

The aim of this study was to determine the effects of burn severity on soil properties (chemical, biochemical and microbiological) in fire-prone pine ecosystems three years after fire. To achieve these goals, we selected two large wildfires that occurred in summer 2012 within the Iberian Peninsula: the Sierra del Teleno wildfire, which burned 119 km2 dominated by Pinus pinaster forests developed over acidic soils, and the Cortes de Pallás wildfire, which burned 297 km2, part of them dominated by Pinus halepensis ecosystems with calcareous soils. We classified the burned areas into low or high burn severity categories using spectral indices. Three years after the wildfires, we distributed 56 field plots proportionally to the extent of each severity category. In each field plot, we collected samples of mineral soil from a depth of 0-3 cm. We analysed soil chemical (pH, electrical conductivity, organic carbon, total nitrogen, available phosphorus) biochemical (β-glucosidase, urease and acid phosphatase enzymatic activities) and microbiological (microbial biomass carbon) properties in each soil sample. The relationship between burn severity and soil properties was analysed by a Permutational Multivariate Analysis of Variance and Generalized Linear Models. The results showed a significant influence of the original ecosystem and of burn severity on the overall soil status over the medium term after fire. Available P content increased with burn severity in the acidic soils of the P. pinaster ecosystem. However, the three enzymatic activities and microbial biomass carbon decreased with burn severity in both types of pine ecosystems. β-glucosidase, urease and microbial biomass carbon showed common patterns in relation to burn severity in the two different Pinus ecosystems (acidic and calcareous soils), and therefore we suggest that they could be potential indicators of the burn severity legacy on soils over the medium term after fire in fire-prone pine Mediterranean forests. Available P and acid phosphatase could be potential indicators in the P. pinaster ecosystem. This study provides useful knowledge for developing hazard reduction and restoration strategies after large wildfires.

Citation: Fernández-García, Víctor; Miesel, Jessica R.; Baeza, Manuel Jaime; Marcos, Elena; Calvo, Leonor. 2019. Wildfire effects on soil properties in fire-prone pine ecosystems: indicators of burn severity legacy over the medium term after fire. Applied Soil Ecology 135:147-156. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apsoil.2018.12.002
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Soils, Fire Regime, Fire Intensity / Burn Severity
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 19352
FRAMES RCS number: 57087
Record updated: Apr 16, 2019