Skip to Main Content
Short- and medium-term effects of fuel reduction mulch treatments on soil nitrogen availability in Colorado conifer forestsAuthor(s): C. C. Rhoades; M. A. Battaglia; M. E. Rocca; M. G. Ryan
Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 276: 231-238.
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
View PDF (669.87 KB)
DescriptionMechanical fuel reduction treatments have been implemented on millions of hectares of western North American forests. The redistribution of standing forest biomass to the soil surface by mulching treatments has no ecological analog, and this practice may alter soil processes and forest productivity. We evaluated the effects of mulch addition on soil nitrogen availability at 15 fuel reduction projects in the southern Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau regions of Colorado. Mulching treatments removed 38 Mg ha-1 of standing forest biomass on average and added 2-4 cm of irregular woody fragments to the O horizon. Mulching lowered maximum summer soil temperatures and increased soil moisture. The N added in mulch was equivalent to half the amount contained in untreated O horizons, and mulch had a lower N concentration and wider C:N ratio than material of similar size in untreated areas. Plantavailable soil N, measured in situ with ion exchange resins was reduced under heavily-mulched experimental plots the year mulching occurred, but the effect did not persist for a second year. The nitrogen content of freshly-applied mulch increased by 9, 24 and 55 kg N ha-1 year-1 in plots receiving 22, 49 and 105 Mg ha-1 of mulch material on average. In contrast, 5-year-old mulch released N regardless of amount of mulch added. Three to five years after treatment, available N was 32% higher in mulched fuel reduction treatments compared to untreated forests. Heavy mulch application has the potential to temporarily reduce soil N availability in limited areas, but as implemented in Colorado conifer forests, fuel reduction mulch treatments increase soil N availability.
- You may send email to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
CitationRhoades, C. C.; Battaglia, M. A.; Rocca, M. E.; Ryan, M. G. 2012. Short- and medium-term effects of fuel reduction mulch treatments on soil nitrogen availability in Colorado conifer forests. Forest Ecology and Management. 276: 231-238.
Keywordsmastication, chipping, nitrogen cycling, soil productivity
- Promoting revegetation and soil carbon sequestration on decommissioned forest roads in Colorado, USA: A comparative assessment of organic soil amendments
- Surface fuel loadings within mulching treatments in Colorado coniferous forests
- Effectiveness of three post-fire rehabilitation treatments in the Colorado Front Range
XML: View XML