Publication Details

Soil organic matter composition and quality across fire severity gradients in coniferous and deciduous forests of the southern boreal region

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Miesel, Jessica R.; Hockaday, William C.; Kolka, Randy; Townsend, Philip A.

Year Published

2015

Publication

Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences. 120(6): 1124-1141.

Abstract

Recent patterns of prolonged regional drought in southern boreal forests of the Great Lakes region, USA, suggest that the ecological effects of disturbance by wildfire may become increasingly severe. Losses of forest soil organic matter (SOM) during fire can limit soil nutrient availability and forest regeneration. These processes are also influenced by the composition of postfire SOM. We sampled the forest floor layer (i.e., full organic horizon) and 0-10cm mineral soil fromstands dominated by coniferous (Pinus banksiana Lamb.) or deciduous (Populus tremuloides Michx.) species 1-2months after the 2011 Pagami Creek wildfire in northern Minnesota. We used solid-state 13C NMR to characterize SOMcomposition across a gradient of fire severity in both forest cover types. SOM composition was affected by fire, even when no statistically significant losses of total C stocks were evident. The most pronounced differences in SOM composition between burned and unburned reference areas occurred in the forest floor for both cover types. Carbohydrate stocks in forest floor andmineral horizons decreased with severity level in both cover types, whereas pyrogenic C stocks increased with severity in the coniferous forest floor and decreased in only the highest severity level in the deciduous forest floor. Loss of carbohydrate and lignin pools contributed to a decreased SOMstability index and increased decomposition index. Our results suggest that increases in fire severity expected to occur under future climate scenarios may lead to changes in SOM composition and dynamics with consequences for postfire forest recovery and C uptake.

Keywords

wildfire; Pagami Creek fire forest; soil organic matter; carbon; pyrogenic carbon; Soils/pedology; Natural hazards; Soils

Citation

Miesel, Jessica R.; Hockaday, William C.; Kolka, Randall K.; Townsend, Philip A. 2015. Soil organic matter composition and quality across fire severity gradients in coniferous and deciduous forests of the southern boreal region. Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences. 120(6): 1124-1141. https://doi.org/10.1002/2015JG002959.

Last updated on: September 30, 2016