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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Invasive Species Assessment and Control to Enhance Sustainability of Great Basin Rangelands

Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research

Title: Prescribed fire and timber harvesting effects on soil carbon and nitrogen in a pine forest

Authors
item Roaldson, Lauren -
item Johnson, Dale -
item Miller, Watkins -
item Murphy, James -
item Walker, Roger -
item Stein, Chad -
item Glass, Dallas -
item BLANK, ROBERT

Submitted to: Soil Science Society of America Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 13, 2014
Publication Date: July 14, 2014
Citation: Roaldson, L.M., Johnson, D.W., Miller, W.W., Murphy, J.D., Walker, R.F., Stein, C.M., Glass, D.W., Blank, R.R. 2014. Prescribed fire and timber harvesting effects on soil carbon and nitrogen in a pine forest. Soil Science Society of America Journal. DOI:10.2136/sssaj2013.08.0350nafsc.

Interpretive Summary: In the Sierra Nevada, thinning and prescribed fire are common management tools to reduce fuel loads and prevent catastrophic wildfires. Our purpose was to quantify the long-term effects of prescribed fire following various harvest and understory removal treatments on several soil nutrient pools. Data were collected before, immediately after, and nine years later following a prescribed burn. All forest floor and soil samples were analyzed for nutrients (O horizon: total N; mineral soil: total N, total C, mineral N). Fuel reductions were evident nine years after the burning in the burned plots. No significant changes in total C or total N in surface (0-20 cm) mineral soils over the nine-year period. Mineral N concentrations in surface soils were greater in unburned than in burned CTL treatments after nine years. These differences were attributed to N inputs from decomposing slash and to the reduction in the biomass of N fixers by burning.

Technical Abstract: Thinning and prescribed fire are common management tools used to eliminate thick fuel loads that could otherwise facilitate and encourage a more severe catastrophic wildfire. The objective of this study was to quantify the lasting effects of prescribed fire on forest floor and soil nutrients approximately nine years after a burn occurred near Truckee, California. The study site includes a prescribed fire following various harvest and understory removal treatments: whole-tree (WTH) thinning, cut-to-length (CTL) thinning, and no thinning. Data were collected before, immediately after, and nine years later following a prescribed burn. All forest floor and soil samples were analyzed for nutrients (O horizon: total N; mineral soil: total N, total C, mineral N). Fuel reductions were evident nine years after the burning in the burned plots. No significant changes in total C or total N in surface (0-20 cm) mineral soils over the nine year period. Mineral N concentrations in surface soils were greater in unburned than in burned CTL treatments after nine years. These differences were attributed to N inputs from decomposing slash and to the reduction in the biomass of N fixers by burning.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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