Alex Amerh Agbeshie, Simon Abugre, Thomas Atta-Darkwa, Richard Awuah
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Ecology
Fire Effects
Prescribed Fire-use treatments

NRFSN number: 24991
FRAMES RCS Number: 65859
Record updated: November 2, 2022

Forest fires are key ecosystem modifiers affecting the biological, chemical, and physical attributes of forest soils. The extent of soil disturbance by fire is largely dependent on fire intensity, duration and recurrence, fuel load, and soil characteristics. The impact on soil properties is intricate, yielding different results based on these factors. This paper reviews research investigating the effects of wildfire and prescribed fire on the biological and physico-chemical attributes of forest soils and provides a summary of current knowledge associated with the benefits and disadvantages of such fires. Low-intensity fires with ash deposition on soil surfaces cause changes in soil chemistry, including increase in available nutrients and pH. High intensity fires are noted for the complete combustion of organic matter and result in severe negative impacts on forest soils. High intensity fires result in nutrient volatilization, the break down in soil aggregate stability, an increase soil bulk density, an increase in the hydrophobicity of soil particles leading to decreased water infiltration with increased erosion and destroy soil biota. High soil heating (> 120 °C) from high-intensity forest fires is detrimental to the soil ecosystem, especially its physical and biological properties. In this regard, the use of prescribed burning as a management tool to reduce the fuel load is highly recommended due to its low intensity and limited soil heating. Furthermore, the use of prescribed fires to manage fuel loads is critically needed in the light of current global warming as it will help prevent increased wildfire incidences. This review provides information on the impact of forest fires on soil properties, a key feature in the maintenance of healthy ecosystems. In addition, the review should prompt comprehensive soil and forest management regimes to limit soil disturbance and restore fire-disturbed soil ecosystems.


Agbeshie, Alex Amerh; Abugre, Simon; Atta-Darkwa, Thomas; Awuah, Richard. 2022. A review of the effects of forest fire on soil properties. Journal of Forestry Research 33(5):1419-1441.

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