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Short-term carbon and nitrogen dynamics in soil, litterfall and canopy of a suburban native forest subjected to prescribed burning in subtropical Australia

Abstract

Purpose

This study aimed to understand the mechanisms of the variations in carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) pools and examine the possibility of differentiating the burning effects from seasonal and pre-existed N limitations in a native suburban forest ecosystem influenced by prescribed burning in subtropical Australia.

Materials and methods

Soil and litterfall samples were collected from two study sites from 1 to 23 months since last burnt. Soil labile C and N pools, soil C and N isotopic compositions (δ13C and δ15N), litterfall mass production (LM), and litterfall total C, total N, δ13C and δ15N were analysed. In-situ gas exchange measurements were also conducted during dry and wet seasons for Eucalyptus baileyana and E. planchoniana.

Results and discussion

The results indicated that labile C and N pools increased within the first few months after burning, with no correlations with climatic factors. Therefore, it was possible that the increase was due to the burning-induced factors such as the incorporation of ashes into the soil. The highest values of soil and litterfall δ15N, observed when the study was commenced at the experimental sites, and their high correlations with climatic factors were indicative of long-term N and water limitation. The 13C signals showed that soil N concentrations and climatic factors were also two of the main factors controlling litterfall and foliage properties mainly through the changes in photosynthetic capacity and stomatal conductance.

Conclusions

Long-term soil N availabilities and climatic factors were the two of the main driving factors of C and N cycling in the studied forest sites. Further studies are needed to compare soil and litterfall properties before and after burning to profoundly understand the effects of prescribed burning on soil labile C and N variations.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge the help of Mr. Li Tang, Mr. Dianjie Wang, Mr. Kyle Barton and Mr. Mone Nouansyvong for sample collection. This study was funded by the Griffith University (grant number NSC 1010).

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Correspondence to Iman Tahmasbian or Zhihong Xu.

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Tahmasbian, I., Xu, Z., Nguyen, T.T.N. et al. Short-term carbon and nitrogen dynamics in soil, litterfall and canopy of a suburban native forest subjected to prescribed burning in subtropical Australia. J Soils Sediments 19, 3969–3981 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-019-02430-3

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Keywords

  • Controlled fire
  • Ecophysiology
  • Forest management
  • Fuel reduction
  • Natural isotopes
  • Photosynthesis