Effects of fire on properties of forest soils: a review

Abstract

Many physical, chemical, mineralogical, and biological soil properties can be affected by forest fires. The effects are chiefly a result of burn severity, which consists of peak temperatures and duration of the fire. Climate, vegetation, and topography of the burnt area control the resilience of the soil system; some fire-induced changes can even be permanent. Low to moderate severity fires, such as most of those prescribed in forest management, promote renovation of the dominant vegetation through elimination of undesired species and transient increase of pH and available nutrients. No irreversible ecosystem change occurs, but the enhancement of hydrophobicity can render the soil less able to soak up water and more prone to erosion. Severe fires, such as wildfires, generally have several negative effects on soil. They cause significant removal of organic matter, deterioration of both structure and porosity, considerable loss of nutrients through volatilisation, ash entrapment in smoke columns, leaching and erosion, and marked alteration of both quantity and specific composition of microbial and soil-dwelling invertebrate communities. However, despite common perceptions, if plants succeed in promptly recolonising the burnt area, the pre-fire level of most properties can be recovered and even enhanced. This work is a review of the up-to-date literature dealing with changes imposed by fires on properties of forest soils. Ecological implications of these changes are described.

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Certini, G. Effects of fire on properties of forest soils: a review. Oecologia 143, 1–10 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-004-1788-8

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Keywords

  • Fire
  • Forest ecosystems
  • Forest soils
  • Soil ecology
  • Soil properties