Skip to Main Content
Long-term impacts of prescribed burns on soil thermal conductivity and soil heating at a Colorado Rocky Mountain site: a data/model fusion studyAuthor(s): W. J. Massman; J. M. Frank; N. B. Reisch
Source: International Journal of Wildland Fire. 17: 131-146.
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
View PDF (1.03 MB)
DescriptionHeating any soil during a sufficiently intense wild fire or prescribed burn can alter that soil irreversibly, resulting in many significant, and well studied, long-term biological, chemical, and hydrological effects. On the other hand, much less is known about how fire affects the thermal properties and the long-term thermal regime of soils. Such knowledge is important for understanding the nature of the soil's post-fire recovery because plant roots and soil microbes will have to adapt to any changes in the day-to-day thermal regime. This study, which was carried out at Manitou Experimental Forest (a semiarid site in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado, USA), examines three aspects of how fire can affect the long-term (post-fire) thermal energy flow in soils. First, observational evidence is presented that prescribed burns can alter the thermal conductivity of soils to a depth of at least 0.2 m without altering its bulk density. Second, data are presented on the thermal properties of ash. (Such data are necessary for understanding and modeling the impact any remaining post-fire ash layer might have on the daily and seasonal flow of thermal energy through the soil.) Third, observational data are presented on the long-term effects that prescribed burns can have on soil surface temperatures. In an effort to quantify long-term changes in the soil temperatures and heat fluxes resulting from fire this study concludes by developing and using an analytical model of the daily and annual cycles of soil heating and cooling, which incorporates observed (linear variation of) vertical structure of the soil thermal properties and observed changes in the surface temperatures, to synthesise these fire-induced effects. Modeling results suggest that under the dry soil conditions, typical of the experimental forest, the amplitudes of the daily and seasonal cycles of soil heating/cooling in the fire-affected soils will greatly exceed those in the soils unaffected by fire for several months to years following the fire and that these effects propagate to depths exceeding one metre.
- You may send email to email@example.com to request a hard copy of this publication.
- (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
- We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
- This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
CitationMassman, W. J.; Frank, J. M.; Reisch, N. B. 2008. Long-term impacts of prescribed burns on soil thermal conductivity and soil heating at a Colorado Rocky Mountain site: a data/model fusion study. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 17: 131-146.
Keywordsfire, ponderosa pine, soil heat flux, soil microclimate
- Recovering lost ground: effects of soil burn intensity on nutrients and ectomycorrhiza communities of ponderosa pine seedlings
- Microbial community structure and activity in a Colorado Rocky Mountain forest soil scarred by slash pile burning
- Physical and chemical characteristics of surface fuels in masticated mixed-conifer stands of the U.S. Rocky Mountains
XML: View XML