Impact of fire on soil gross nitrogen transformations in forest ecosystems

Abstract

Purpose

Forests play a key role in the global carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling. Fire is a global phenomenon occurring in many forest ecosystems, which has several environmental and ecological effects. The objective of this review was to improve our understanding of the effect of fire on soil gross N transformations in forest ecosystems.

Methods and results

We have reviewed the published studies using 15N pool dilution technique with analytical data analysis method to study the effect of fires on gross N transformations in forest ecosystems. Wildfires increased gross N mineralization rates in the short term and the effect disappeared from 3 years after the fire, while the effect of prescribed fires disappeared from 2 years after the burning. Both wildfires and prescribed fires reduced gross nitrification in the short term, while their effects varied from 6 months following the burning.

Conclusions

The different responses of gross N transformations to the fires in forest ecosystems depended on many factors including forest types, the intensity and frequency of fires, the time elapsed between the fires and sampling events, incubation conditions (field or laboratory incubation), climatic conditions and so on. In view of many factors influencing the effect of fires on gross N transformations, more comprehensive studies with physical, chemical, microbial and ecological characterization are needed to improve our knowledge about the effect of fires on soil gross N transformations and then N cycling in forest ecosystems.

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Acknowledgments

This work was partially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China as a key project (grant No. 21037002). Yuzhe Wang was supported through a 2-year scholarship under the State Scholarship Fund of China to study in Australia as a joint PhD student. The authors acknowledge the funding support from the Australian Research Council. We also thank Kadum M. Abdullah for providing the picture of prescribed fire conducted on 11 August 2011 in Toohey Forest in Brisbane, Australia.

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Correspondence to Zhihong Xu or Qixing Zhou.

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Responsible editor: Hailong Wang

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Wang, Y., Xu, Z. & Zhou, Q. Impact of fire on soil gross nitrogen transformations in forest ecosystems. J Soils Sediments 14, 1030–1040 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-014-0879-3

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Keywords

  • 15N pool dilution technique
  • Forest ecosystem
  • Gross N transformation
  • Prescribed fire
  • Soil
  • Wildfire