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Special Issue "Long-Term Effects of Fire on Forest Soils"

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A special issue of Forests (ISSN 1999-4907).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2012)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Dale W. Johnson (Website)

Natural Resources and Environmental Science, University of Nevada, Reno, Fleischmann Agriculture Bldg., Ms 370, Reno, NV 89557, USA
Phone: 775-267-0497
Fax: +1 775 784 4789
Interests: biogeochemical cycling in natural systems; effects of regional and global phenomena (atmospheric pollution, increased carbon dioxide and climate change) and localized influences (such as harvesting, fire, fertilization) on biochemical cycling, primarily in forest ecosystems; soil-soil solution chemical interactions; factors affecting organic carbon accumulation and loss in soils; nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus transformations in soils

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

There have been many studies and some excellent reviews of the effects of fire on soils. In most cases, these papers and reviews have focused on the immediate effects of fire on soil chemical, biological, and physical properties, and in general these effects are very pronounced. As is the case with many ecosystem perturbations, however, information on longer term effects is more sparse, mostly because few studies are funded for a sufficient length of time to investigate such changes.

Longer term effects of a wildfire could be a result of the immediate and direct effects of burning and the associated carbon and nitrogen losses, ash incorporation, or the indirect effects of charcoal and post-fire vegetation (especially nitrogen-fixing vegetation) along with the lingering effects of burning and ash that occurred immediately after the fire. Longer term effects of repeated prescribed fires could have all of the above as well as the cumulative effects of immediate soil responses. This special issue of Forests will address the longer-term effects of fire from both an observational and theoretical perspective.

Prof. Dr. Dale W. Johnson
Guest Editor

Keywords

  • prescribed fire
  • wild fire
  • soil
  • chemistry
  • biology
  • vegetation
  • charcoal

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Jump to: Review

Open AccessArticle Oribatid Mite Community Decline Two Years after Low-Intensity Burning in the Southern Cascade Range of California, USA
Forests 2012, 3(4), 959-985; doi:10.3390/f3040959
Received: 30 July 2012 / Revised: 8 August 2012 / Accepted: 17 October 2012 / Published: 24 October 2012
PDF Full-text (332 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
To assess effects of low-intensity fire, we combined two silvicultural prescriptions with prescribed fire in the California Cascade Range. In the first treatment, two 100-ha stands were thinned to reduce density while retaining old-growth structural characteristics, yielding residual stands with high structural [...] Read more.
To assess effects of low-intensity fire, we combined two silvicultural prescriptions with prescribed fire in the California Cascade Range. In the first treatment, two 100-ha stands were thinned to reduce density while retaining old-growth structural characteristics, yielding residual stands with high structural diversity (HSD). Two other 100-ha plots were thinned to minimize old growth structure, producing even-aged stands of low structural diversity (LSD), and one 50-ha split-plot from each treatment was burned. In addition, two 50 ha old-growth Research Natural Areas (RNA) were selected as untreated reference plots, one of which was also burned. Fire treatments profoundly altered mite assemblages in the short term, and forest structure modification likely exacerbated that response. Sampling conducted two years following treatment confirmed a continuing decline in oribatid mite abundance. Oribatid species richness and assemblage heterogeneity also declined, and community dominance patterns were disrupted. Oribatid responses to fire were either more intense or began earlier in the LSD treatments, suggesting that removal of old-growth structure exacerbated mite responses to fire. Prostigmatids recovered quickly, but their populations nonetheless diminished significantly in burned split-plots. Mite assemblage responses to prescribed fire were continuing nearly two years later, with no clear evidence of recovery. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Long-Term Effects of Fire on Forest Soils)
Open AccessArticle Charcoal and Total Carbon in Soils from Foothills Shrublands to Subalpine Forests in the Colorado Front Range
Forests 2012, 3(4), 944-958; doi:10.3390/f3040944
Received: 2 August 2012 / Revised: 11 October 2012 / Accepted: 15 October 2012 / Published: 22 October 2012
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (1907 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Long-Term Effects of Fire on Forest Soils)
Open AccessArticle The Effect of Restoration Treatments on the Spatial Variability of Soil Processes under Longleaf Pine Trees
Forests 2012, 3(3), 591-604; doi:10.3390/f3030591
Received: 2 May 2012 / Revised: 10 July 2012 / Accepted: 25 July 2012 / Published: 3 August 2012
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (295 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
The objectives of this study were to (1) characterize tree-based spatial patterning of soil properties and understory vegetation in frequently burned (“reference state”) and fire-suppressed longleaf pine forests; and (2) determine how restoration treatments affected patterning. To attain these objectives, we used [...] Read more.
The objectives of this study were to (1) characterize tree-based spatial patterning of soil properties and understory vegetation in frequently burned (“reference state”) and fire-suppressed longleaf pine forests; and (2) determine how restoration treatments affected patterning. To attain these objectives, we used an experimental manipulation of management types implemented 15 years ago in Florida. We randomly located six mature longleaf pine trees in one reference and four restoration treatments (i.e., burn, control, herbicide, and mechanical), for a total of 36 trees. In addition to the original treatments and as part of a monitoring program, all plots were subjected to several prescribed fires during these 15 years. Under each tree, we sampled mineral soil and understory vegetation at 1 m, 2 m, 3 m and 4 m (vegetation only) away from the tree. At these sites, soil carbon and nitrogen were higher near the trunk while graminoids, forbs and saw palmetto covers showed an opposite trend. Our results confirmed that longleaf pine trees affect the spatial patterning of soil and understory vegetation, and this patterning was mostly limited to the restoration sites. We suggest frequent burning as a probable cause for a lack of spatial structure in the “reference state”. We attribute the presence of spatial patterning in the restoration sites to accumulation of organic materials near the base of mature trees. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Long-Term Effects of Fire on Forest Soils)
Open AccessArticle DAYCENT Simulations to Test the Influence of Fire Regime and Fire Suppression on Trace Gas Fluxes and Nitrogen Biogeochemistry of Colorado Forests
Forests 2012, 3(3), 506-527; doi:10.3390/f3030506
Received: 3 May 2012 / Revised: 6 June 2012 / Accepted: 9 July 2012 / Published: 24 July 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (444 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Biological activity and the physical environment regulate greenhouse gas fluxes (CH4, N2O and NO) from upland soils. Wildfires are known to alter these factors such that we collected daily weather records, fire return intervals, or specific fire years, [...] Read more.
Biological activity and the physical environment regulate greenhouse gas fluxes (CH4, N2O and NO) from upland soils. Wildfires are known to alter these factors such that we collected daily weather records, fire return intervals, or specific fire years, and soil data of four specific sites along the Colorado Front Range. These data were used as primary inputs into DAYCENT. In this paper we test the ability of DAYCENT to simulate four forested sites in this area and to address two objectives: (1) to evaluate the short-term influence of fire on trace gas fluxes from burned landscapes; and (2) to compare trace gas fluxes among locations and between pre-/post- fire suppression. The model simulations indicate that CH4 oxidation is relatively unaffected by wildfire. In contrast, gross nitrification rates were reduced by 13.5–37.1% during the fire suppression period. At two of the sites, we calculated increases in gross nitrification rates (>100%), and N2O and NO fluxes during the year of fire relative to the year before a fire. Simulated fire suppression exhibited decreased gross nitrification rates presumably as nitrogen is immobilized. This finding concurs with other studies that highlight the importance of forest fires to maintain soil nitrogen availability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Long-Term Effects of Fire on Forest Soils)
Open AccessArticle Index for Characterizing Post-Fire Soil Environments in Temperate Coniferous Forests
Forests 2012, 3(3), 445-466; doi:10.3390/f3030445
Received: 4 May 2012 / Revised: 8 June 2012 / Accepted: 19 June 2012 / Published: 6 July 2012
Cited by 12 | PDF Full-text (262 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Many scientists and managers have an interest in describing the environment following a fire to understand the effects on soil productivity, vegetation growth, and wildlife habitat, but little research has focused on the scientific rationale for classifying the post-fire environment. We developed an empirically-grounded soil post-fire index (PFI) based on available science and ecological thresholds. Using over 50 literature sources, we identified a minimum of five broad categories of post-fire outcomes: (a) unburned, (b) abundant surface organic matter ( > 85% surface organic matter), (c) moderate amount of surface organic matter ( ≥ 40 through 85%), (d) small amounts of surface organic matter ( < 40%), and (e) absence of surface organic matter (no organic matter left). We then subdivided each broad category on the basis of post-fire mineral soil colors providing a more fine-tuned post-fire soil index. We related each PFI category to characteristics such as soil temperature and duration of heating during fire, and physical, chemical, and biological responses. Classifying or describing post-fire soil conditions consistently will improve interpretations of fire effects research and facilitate communication of potential responses or outcomes (e.g., erosion potential) from fires of varying severities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Long-Term Effects of Fire on Forest Soils)
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Open AccessArticle The Long-Term Effects of Wildfire and Post-Fire Vegetation on Sierra Nevada Forest Soils
Forests 2012, 3(2), 398-416; doi:10.3390/f3020398
Received: 12 April 2012 / Revised: 12 June 2012 / Accepted: 13 June 2012 / Published: 20 June 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (305 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Correction | Supplementary Files
Abstract
This paper compares carbon (C) and nutrient contents in soils (Alfisols derived from andesite), forest floor and vegetation in a former fire (1960) and an adjacent forest in the Sagehen Watershed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Soils from the former [...] Read more.
This paper compares carbon (C) and nutrient contents in soils (Alfisols derived from andesite), forest floor and vegetation in a former fire (1960) and an adjacent forest in the Sagehen Watershed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Soils from the former fire (now occupied predominantly by Ceanothus velutinus, a nitrogen-fixing shrub) had significantly lower contents of extractable SO42 and P (both Bray and bicarbonate) but significantly greater contents of exchangeable Ca2+ than the adjacent forested site (dominated by Pinus jeffreyii). 15N data suggested that N fixation had occurred in the former fire site, but N contents did not differ between the two sites. O horizon C and nutrient contents did not differ between the two sites, but vegetation C and nutrient contents were significantly greater in the forested than former fire site. These results contrast with those from a nearby, previous study at Little Valley Nevada, also dominated by P. jeffreyii growing on a different soil type (Entisols derived from granite). In the Little Valley study, soil C, N, Ca2+, Mg2+, and K+ contents within the former fire (1981, now also occupied predominantly by Ceanothus velutinus) were greater than in the adjacent forest (Pinus jeffreyii) but soil extractable P contents either did not differ or were greater in the former fire. We conclude that soil parent material is an indirect but strong mediator of the effects of post-fire vegetation on soils in this region, especially with respect to soil P changes, which vary substantially between andesite- and granite-derived soils. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Long-Term Effects of Fire on Forest Soils)
Open AccessArticle Long and Short-Term Effects of Fire on Soil Charcoal of a Conifer Forest in Southwest Oregon
Forests 2012, 3(2), 353-369; doi:10.3390/f3020353
Received: 1 May 2012 / Revised: 7 June 2012 / Accepted: 13 June 2012 / Published: 19 June 2012
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (328 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In 2002, the Biscuit Wildfire burned a portion of the previously established, replicated conifer unthinned and thinned experimental units of the Siskiyou Long-Term Ecosystem Productivity (LTEP) experiment, southwest Oregon. Charcoal C in pre and post-fire O horizon and mineral soil was quantified [...] Read more.
In 2002, the Biscuit Wildfire burned a portion of the previously established, replicated conifer unthinned and thinned experimental units of the Siskiyou Long-Term Ecosystem Productivity (LTEP) experiment, southwest Oregon. Charcoal C in pre and post-fire O horizon and mineral soil was quantified by physical separation and a peroxide-acid digestion method. The abrupt, short-term fire event caused O horizon charcoal C to increase by a factor of ten to >200 kg C ha−1. The thinned wildfire treatment produced less charcoal C than unthinned wildfire and thinned prescribed fire treatments. The charcoal formation rate was 1 to 8% of woody fuels consumed, and this percentage was negatively related to woody fuels consumed, resulting in less charcoal formation with greater fire severity. Charcoal C averaged 2000 kg ha−1 in 0–3 cm mineral soil and may have decreased as a result of fire, coincident with convective or erosive loss of mineral soil. Charcoal C in 3–15 cm mineral soil was stable at 5500 kg C ha−1. Long-term soil C sequestration in the Siskiyou LTEP soils is greatly influenced by the contribution of charcoal C, which makes up 20% of mineral soil organic C. This research reiterates the importance of fire to soil C in a southwestern Oregon coniferous forest ecosystem. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Long-Term Effects of Fire on Forest Soils)
Open AccessArticle Impacts of Prescribed Fire Frequency on Coarse Woody Debris Volume, Decomposition and Termite Activity in the Longleaf Pine Flatwoods of Florida
Forests 2012, 3(2), 317-331; doi:10.3390/f3020317
Received: 19 April 2012 / Revised: 22 May 2012 / Accepted: 30 May 2012 / Published: 6 June 2012
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (208 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystems have been reduced dramatically throughout their range. Prescribed burning is considered the best way to restore and maintain plant communities associated with longleaf pine, but little is known about its effects on coarse woody debris [...] Read more.
Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystems have been reduced dramatically throughout their range. Prescribed burning is considered the best way to restore and maintain plant communities associated with longleaf pine, but little is known about its effects on coarse woody debris and associated organisms. We conducted a 5-year study on the Osceola National Forest in northeastern Florida to determine how dormant-season prescribed burns at different frequencies (annual, biennial, quadrennial or unburned) applied over a 40-year period affected coarse woody debris volume, decomposition and nitrogen content, and subterranean termite (Reticulitermes spp.) activity. Burn frequency had no effect on standing dead tree or log volumes. However, freshly cut longleaf pine logs placed in the plots for four years lost significantly less mass in annually burned plots than in unburned plots. The annual exponential decay coefficient estimate from all logs was 0.14 yr−1 (SE = 0.01), with the estimated times for 50 and 95% loss being 5 and 21.4 years, respectively. Termite presence was unaffected by frequent burning, suggesting they were able to survive the fires underground or within wood, and that winter burning did not deplete their food resources. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Long-Term Effects of Fire on Forest Soils)
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Open AccessArticle Do Anthropogenic Dark Earths Occur in the Interior of Borneo? Some Initial Observations from East Kalimantan
Forests 2012, 3(2), 207-229; doi:10.3390/f3020207
Received: 16 February 2012 / Revised: 31 March 2012 / Accepted: 11 April 2012 / Published: 7 May 2012
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (654 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Anthropogenic soils of the Amazon Basin (Terra Preta, Terra Mulata) reveal that pre-Colombian peoples made lasting improvements in the agricultural potential of nutrient-poor soils. Some have argued that applying similar techniques could improve agriculture over much of the humid [...] Read more.
Anthropogenic soils of the Amazon Basin (Terra Preta, Terra Mulata) reveal that pre-Colombian peoples made lasting improvements in the agricultural potential of nutrient-poor soils. Some have argued that applying similar techniques could improve agriculture over much of the humid tropics, enhancing local livelihoods and food security, while also sequestering large quantities of carbon to mitigate climate change. Here, we present preliminary evidence for Anthropogenic Dark Earths (ADEs) in tropical Asia. Our surveys in East Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) identified several sites where soils possess an anthropogenic development and context similar in several respects to the Amazon’s ADEs. Similarities include riverside locations, presence of useful fruit trees, spatial extent as well as soil characteristics such as dark color, high carbon content (in some cases), high phosphorus levels, and improved apparent fertility in comparison to neighboring soils. Local people value these soils for cultivation but are unaware of their origins. We discuss these soils in the context of local history and land-use and identify numerous unknowns. Incomplete biomass burning appears key to these modified soils. More study is required to clarify soil transformations in Borneo and to determine under what circumstances such soil improvements might remain ongoing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Long-Term Effects of Fire on Forest Soils)
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Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview Fire Effects on Soils in Lake States Forests: A Compilation of Published Research to Facilitate Long-Term Investigations
Forests 2012, 3(4), 1034-1070; doi:10.3390/f3041034
Received: 12 October 2012 / Revised: 31 October 2012 / Accepted: 2 November 2012 / Published: 19 November 2012
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (352 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Fire-adapted forests of the Lake States region are poorly studied relative to those of the western and southeastern United States and our knowledge base of regional short- and long-term fire effects on soils is limited. We compiled and assessed the body of [...] Read more.
Fire-adapted forests of the Lake States region are poorly studied relative to those of the western and southeastern United States and our knowledge base of regional short- and long-term fire effects on soils is limited. We compiled and assessed the body of literature addressing fire effects on soils in Lake States forests to facilitate the re-measurement of previous studies for the development of new long-term datasets, and to identify existing gaps in the regional knowledge of fire effects on forest soils. Most studies reviewed addressed fire effects on chemical properties in pine-dominated forests, and long-term (>10 years) studies were limited. The major gaps in knowledge we identified include: (1) information on fire temperature and behavior information that would enhance interpretation of fire effects; (2) underrepresentation of the variety of forest types in the Lake States region; (3) information on nutrient fluxes and ecosystem processes; and (4) fire effects on soil organisms. Resolving these knowledge gaps via future research will provide for a more comprehensive understanding of fire effects in Lake States forest soils. Advancing the understanding of fire effects on soil processes and patterns in Lake States forests is critical for designing regionally appropriate long-term forest planning and management activities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Long-Term Effects of Fire on Forest Soils)

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