Ecological - Second Order
Fire Intensity / Burn Severity
Recent changes in fire regimes, with more frequent, extensive, and severe fires, are modifying soil characteristics. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of burn severity on the resistance of some physical, chemical, and biochemical soil properties in three different forest ecosystems affected by a wildfire in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. We evaluated burn severity immediately after fire using the Composite Burn Index (CBI) in three different ecosystems: shrublands, heathlands, and oak forests. In the same field plots used to quantify CBI, we took a composite soil sample to analyse physical (mean weight diameter (MWD)), chemical (pH; total C; total organic C (TOC); total inorganic C (TIC); total N; available P; exchangeable cations Na+, K+, Mg2+, and Ca2+; and cation exchange capacity (CEC)), and biochemical (β-glucosidase, urease, and acid phosphatase enzyme activities) properties. The resistance index of each property was then calculated. Based on our results, the values of the soil chemical properties tended to increase immediately after fire. Among them, total C, TOC, and exchangeable Na+ showed higher resistance to change, with less variation concerning pre-fire status. The resistance of chemical properties was higher in the oak forest ecosystem. MWD decreased at high severity in all ecosystems, but soils in shrublands were more resistant. We found a high decrease in soil enzymatic activity with burn severity, with biochemical properties being the least resistant to change. Therefore, the enzymatic activity of soil could be a potential indicator of severity in forest ecosystems recently affected by wildfires.