One of the major pedological changes produced by wildfires is the drastic modification of forest soil systems properties. To our knowledge, large research gaps are currently present concerning the effect of such fires on forest Haplic Luvisols soils in Central Europe. In this study, the effects of experimental fires on soil organic matter and chemical properties at different burning intensities in a Central European forest were examined. The study was conducted at Damak Forest, in Hungary, ecosystem dominated by deciduous broadleaf trees, including the rare Hungarian oak Quercus frainetto
Ten. The experimental fires were carried out in nine different plots on Haplic Luvisol soils transferred from Damak Forest to the burning site. Three types of fuel load were collected from the forest: litter layer, understorey and overstorey. Groups of three plots were burned at low (litter layer), medium intensity (litter and understorey) and high intensity (litter, understorey and overstorey). Pre-fire and post-fire soil samples were taken from each plot, analysed in the laboratory and statistically compared. Key plant nutrients of organic matter, carbon, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus were analysed from each sample. No significant differences in soil organic matter and carbon between pre- and post-fire samples were observed, but high intensity fires did increase soil pH significantly. Calcium, magnesium and phosphorus availability increased significantly at all fire intensity levels. Soil potassium levels significantly decreased (ca. 50%) for all intensity treatments, in contrast to most literature. Potassium is a key nutrient for ion transport in plants, and any loss of this nutrient from the soil could have significant effects on local agricultural production. Overall, our findings provide evidence that support the maintaining of the current Hungarian fire prevention policy.
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