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Wildfire and post-fire erosion impacts on forest ecosystem carbon and nitrogen: An analysis

Posted date: May 14, 2013
Publication Year: 
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 234S: S162.


Many ecosystem processes occurring in soils depend upon the presence of organic matter. Soil organic matter is particularly important for nutrient supply, cation exchange capacity, and water retention, hence its importance in long-term site productivity. However, wildfires consume large amounts of aboveground organic material, and soil heating can consume soil organic matter. In almost all ecosystems throughout the world, greater quantities of carbon (C) and associated nutrients such as nitrogen (N) are found belowground than aboveground In grasslands, savannas and tundra-covered areas, much greater quantities of organic C (>90%) are found in the underground plant parts and decomposed organic matter than aboveground. In forest ecosystems, C is more evenly distributed aboveground and belowground (e.g. temperate deciduous and boreal forests). In general, soils with larger proportions of organic matter in the aboveground biomass and on their forest floors are more prone to wildfire-caused disturbances in their nutrient and C regimes than those in which most of the C in the ecosystem is located belowground. Overall effects of wildfire on soil C and N are a function of fire temperatures, severity, and frequency. A metaanalysis By Johnson and Curtis (2001) on the results of 13 fire studies (mixture of wildfire, routine prescribed fire, and site preparation fire) completed between 1975 and 1997 showed that the C and N contents of both the A-horizon and the underlying mineral soil layers change only a small amount (


Neary, D. G.; Overby, S. T. 2006. Wildfire and post-fire erosion impacts on forest ecosystem carbon and nitrogen: An analysis. Forest Ecology and Management. 234S: S162.