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Forests 2012, 3(4), 944-958; doi:10.3390/f3040944
Article

Charcoal and Total Carbon in Soils from Foothills Shrublands to Subalpine Forests in the Colorado Front Range

1,*  and 2
Received: 2 August 2012 / Revised: 11 October 2012 / Accepted: 15 October 2012 / Published: 22 October 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Long-Term Effects of Fire on Forest Soils)
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Abstract

Temperate conifer forests in the Colorado Front Range are fire-adapted ecosystems where wildland fires leave a legacy in the form of char and charcoal. Long-term soil charcoal C (CC) pools result from the combined effects of wildland fires, aboveground biomass characteristics and soil transfer mechanisms. We measured CC pools in surface soils (0–10 cm) at mid-slope positions on east facing aspects in five continuous foothills shrubland and conifer forest types. We found a significant statistical effect of vegetation type on CC pools along this ecological gradient, but not a linear pattern increasing with elevation gain. There is a weak bimodal pattern of CC gain with elevation between foothills shrublands (1.2 mg CC ha−1) and the lower montane, ponderosa pine (1.5 mg CC ha−1) and Douglas-fir (1.5 mg CC ha−1) forest types prior to a mid-elevation decline in upper montane lodgepole pine forests (1.2 mg CC ha−1) before increasing again in the spruce/subalpine fir forests (1.5 mg CC ha−1). We propose that CC forms and accumulates via unique ecological conditions such as fire regime. The range of soil CC amounts and ratios of CC to total SOC are comparable to but lower than other regional estimates.
Keywords: charcoal; black carbon; fire; forests; soil organic carbon; Rocky Mountains; fire regime charcoal; black carbon; fire; forests; soil organic carbon; Rocky Mountains; fire regime
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Licata, C.; Sanford, R. Charcoal and Total Carbon in Soils from Foothills Shrublands to Subalpine Forests in the Colorado Front Range. Forests 2012, 3, 944-958.

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