Yong Zhou, Arielle Biro, Michelle Y. Wong, Sarah A. Batterman, A. Carla Staver
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Effects

NRFSN number: 25099
FRAMES RCS number: 66261
Record updated: December 7, 2022

The biogeochemical signature of fire shapes the functioning of many ecosystems. Fire changes nutrient cycles not only by volatilizing plant material, but also by altering organic matter decomposition—a process regulated by soil extracellular enzyme activities (EEAs). However, our understanding of fire effects on EEAs and their feedbacks to nutrient cycles is incomplete. We conducted a meta-analysis with 301 field studies and found that fire significantly decreased EEAs by ~20-40%. Fire decreased EEAs by reducing soil microbial biomass and organic matter substrates. Soil nitrogen-acquiring EEA declined alongside decreasing available nitrogen, likely from fire-driven volatilization of nitrogen and decreased microbial activity. Fire decreased soil phosphorus-acquiring EEA but increased available phosphorus, likely from pyro-mineralization of organic phosphorus. These findings suggest that fire suppresses soil microbes and consumes their substrates, thereby slowing microbially-mediated nutrient cycles (especially phosphorus) via decreased EEAs. These changes can become increasingly important as fire frequency and severity in many ecosystems continue to shift in response to global change.


Zhou, Yong; Biro, Arielle; Wong, Michelle Y.; Batterman, Sarah A.; Staver, A. Carla. 2022. Fire decreases soil enzyme activities and reorganizes microbially-mediated nutrient cycles: a meta-analysis. Ecology 103(11):e3807.

Access this Document