Impact of postfire logging on soil bacterial and fungal communities and soil biogeochemistry in a mixed-conifer forest in central Oregon
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Postfire logging recoups the economic value of timber killed by wildfire, but whether such forest management activity supports or impedes forest recovery in stands differing in structure from historic conditions remains unclear. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of mechanical logging after wildfire on soil bacterial and fungal communities and other measures influencing soil productivity.
We compared soil bacterial and fungal communities and biogeochemical responses of 1) soils compacted, and 2) soils compacted and then subsoiled, to 3) soils receiving no mechanical disturbance, across seven stands, 1–3 years after postfire logging.
Compaction decreased plant-available N on average by 27% compared to no mechanical disturbance, while subsoiling decreased plant-available P (Bray) on average by 26% compared to the compacted and non-mechanically disturbed treatments. Neither bacterial nor fungal richness significantly differed among treatments, yet distinct separation by year in both bacterial and fungal community composition corresponded with significant increases in available N and available P between the first and second postharvest year.
Results suggest that nutrients critical to soil productivity were reduced by mechanical applications used in timber harvesting, yet soil bacteria and fungi, essential to mediating decomposition and nutrient cycling, appeared resilient to mechanical disturbance. Results of this study contribute to the understanding about impacts of harvesting fire-killed trees and bear consideration along with the recovery potential of a site and the impending risk of future fire in stands with high densities of fire-killed trees.