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Post-fire soil functionality and microbial community structure in a Mediterranean shrubland subjected to experimental drought
- Hinojosa, M. Belén, Parra, Antonio, Laudicina, Vito Armando, Moreno, José M.
- The Science of the total environment 2016 v.573 pp. 1178-1189
- Actinobacteria, bacteria, carbon, climate change, community structure, drought, ecosystems, enzyme activity, field experimentation, fire severity, fungi, growing season, irrigation systems, microbial biomass, microbial communities, mineralization, nitrogen content, rain, semiarid zones, shrublands, soil microorganisms, soil properties, Spain
- Fire may cause significant alterations in soil properties. Post-fire soil dynamics can vary depending, among other factors, on rainfall patterns. However, little is known regarding variations in response to post-fire drought. This is relevant in arid and semiarid areas with poor soils, like much of the western Mediterranean. Furthermore, climate change projections in such areas anticipate reduced precipitation and longer annual drought periods, together with an increase in fire severity and frequency. This research evaluates the effects of experimental drought after fire on soil dynamics of a Cistus-Erica shrubland (Central Spain). A replicated (n=4) field experiment was conducted in which the total rainfall and its patterns were manipulated by means of a rain-out shelters and irrigation system. The treatments were: environmental control (natural rainfall), historical control (average rainfall, 2months drought), moderate drought (25% reduction of historical control, 5months drought) and severe drought (45% reduction, 7months drought). After one growing season under these rainfall treatments, the plots were burned. One set of unburned plots under natural rainfall served as an additional control. Soils were collected seasonally. Fire increased soil P and N availability. Post-fire drought treatments reduced available soil P but increased N concentration (mainly nitrate). Fire reduced available K irrespective of drought treatments. Fire reduced enzyme activities and carbon mineralization rate, a reduction that was higher in post-fire drought-treated soils. Fire decreased soil microbial biomass and the proportion of fungi, while that of actinomycetes increased. Post-fire drought decreased soil total microbial biomass and fungi, with bacteria becoming more abundant. Our results support that increasing drought after fire could compromise the resilience of Mediterranean ecosystems to fire.