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Impact of burn severity on soil properties in a Pinus pinaster ecosystem immediately after fire

Fernández-García, Víctor, Marcos, Elena, Fernández-Guisuraga, José Manuel, Taboada, Angela, Suárez-Seoane, Susana, Calvo, Leonor
The International journal of wildland fire 2019 v.28 no.5 pp. 354-364
Pinus pinaster, acid phosphatase, beta-glucosidase, burning, carbon nitrogen ratio, coniferous forests, ecosystems, enzyme activity, microbial biomass, pH, soil aggregates, soil properties, soil sampling, urease, wildfires
We analyse the effects of burn severity on individual soil properties and soil quotients in Mediterranean fire-prone pine forests immediately after a wildfire. Burn severity was measured in the field through the substrate stratum of the Composite Burn Index and soil samples were taken 7–9 days after a wildfire occurred in a Pinus pinaster Ait. ecosystem. In each soil sample, we analysed physical (size of soil aggregates), chemical (pH, organic C, total N and available P) and biological (microbial biomass C, β-glucosidase, urease and acid phosphatase activities) properties. Size of aggregates decreased in the areas affected by high burn severity. Additionally, moderate and high severities were associated with increases in pH and available P concentration and with decreases in organic C concentration. Microbial biomass C showed similar patterns to organic C along the burn severity gradient. The enzymatic activities of phosphatase and β-glucosidase showed the highest sensitivity to burn severity, as they strongly decreased from the low-severity scenarios. Among the studied soil quotients, the C:N ratio, microbial quotient and β-glucosidase:microbial biomass C quotient decreased with burn severity. This work provides valuable information on the impact of burn severity on the functioning of sandy siliceous soils in fire-prone pine ecosystems.