Plant and Soil

, Volume 350, Issue 1–2, pp 393–411 | Cite as

Impact of postfire logging on soil bacterial and fungal communities and soil biogeochemistry in a mixed-conifer forest in central Oregon

  • Tara N. Jennings
  • Jane E. Smith
  • Kermit CromackJr.
  • Elizabeth W. Sulzman
  • Donaraye McKay
  • Bruce A. Caldwell
  • Sarah I. Beldin
Regular Article



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.


Postfire salvage logging Wildfire T-RFLP Soil bacterial and fungal communities Soil chemical and physical properties Community level physiological profiles 



This research was made possible with funding received from the Joint Fire Science Program; Oregon State University Department of Forest Science; the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station; and the National Science Foundation Microbial Observatory (Grant No. 0348689). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Mention of trade or firm names does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We thank Drs. Bernard Bormann, Peter Bottomley, Jim Kennedy, and Jonathan Martin for helpful comments on the manuscript. We thank Nicole Kurhanewicz, Zach Sutton, and William Austin for lab and field assistance. Special thanks to Liz Schwartz and Drs. Nicole DeCrappeo, Stephanie Boyle and Laurel Kluber for assistance with Biolog™ and T-RFLP results interpretation; Drs. Lisa Ganio (Quantitative Sciences Group), Greg Brenner (Pacific Analytics), Bruce McCune, and Dan Luoma for assistance with the study design and statistical analysis; Drs. George Weaver and Brian Knaus for assistance with graphics; Dr. Angeline Cromack for editing; and Brian Tandy, Terry Craigg, and others at the Deschutes National Forest for site information. Lastly, we dedicate this publication to the memory of Dr. Elizabeth Sulzman, an extraordinary scientist, educator, and mentor.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tara N. Jennings
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jane E. Smith
    • 2
  • Kermit CromackJr.
    • 1
  • Elizabeth W. Sulzman
    • 3
  • Donaraye McKay
    • 2
  • Bruce A. Caldwell
    • 4
  • Sarah I. Beldin
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Forest Ecosystems and SocietyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest ServicePacific Northwest Research StationCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Crop and Soil ScienceOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  4. 4.Department of Botany and Plant PathologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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