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Post-fire vegetative dynamics as drivers of microbial community structure and function in forest soils

Author(s): Stephen C. Hart, Thomas H. DeLuca, Gregory S. Newman, M. Derek MacKenzie, Sarah I. Boyle
Year Published: 2005

Soil microorganisms have numerous functional roles in forest ecosystems, including: serving as sources and sinks of key nutrients and catalysts of nutrient transformations; acting as engineers and maintainers of soil structure; and forming mutualistic relationships with roots that improve plant fitness. Although both prescribed and wildland fires are common in temperate forests of North America, few studies have addressed the long-term influence of such disturbances on the soil microflora in these ecosystems. Fire alters the soil microbial community structure in the short-term primarily through heat-induced microbial mortality. Over the long-term, fire may modify soil communities by altering plant community composition via plant-induced changes in the soil environment. In this review, we summarize and synthesize the various studies that have assessed the effects of fire on forest soil microorganisms, emphasizing the mechanisms by which fire impacts these vital ecosystem engineers. The examples used in this paper are derived primarily from studies of ponderosa pine-dominated forests of the Inland West of the USA; these forests have some of the shortest historical fire-return intervals of any forest type, and thus the evolutionary role of fire in shaping these forests is likely the strongest. We argue that the short-term effects of fire on soil microflora and the processes they catalyze are transient, and suggest that more research be devoted to linking long-term plant community responses with those of the mutually dependent soil microflora.

Citation: Hart, Stephen C.; DeLuca, Thomas H.; Newman, Gregory S.; MacKenzie, M. D.; Boyle, Sarah I. 2005. Post-fire vegetative dynamics as drivers of microbial community structure and function in forest soils. Forest Ecology and Management. 220(1-3): 166-184.
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - First Order, Soil Heating, Ecological - Second Order, Vegetation
Ecosystem(s): Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article, Synthesis
NRFSN number: 7938
FRAMES RCS number: 4256
Record updated: Nov 15, 2017