With the effects of fire, weather and post-fire management on soil properties having been studied mostly individually, there is little understanding of the combined effects of wildfire, heavy storm and straw mulching. In this study, we evaluated the changes in soil properties following a high-severity fire, post-fire soil treatment using straw mulch, and a torrential storm in a forest stand in north-western Portugal. The main physicochemical properties of the soil were evaluated in different soil conditions: a) burnt and untreated, b) burnt and mulched areas, and c) unburnt sites on three survey dates 1) soon after wildfire, 2) after the rainstorm, and 3) one year after wildfire. We found that soil water repellency strongly increased ephemerally immediately after wildfire, decrease after the storm and disappeared after one year. Fire reduced the soil organic matter (by 50%, on average), total nitrogen (by 85-90%) and available phosphorous (by about 45%) at both the mulched and untreated sites, and this effect was not changed by the ensuing rainfall. In comparison to the unburnt sites, the pH increased in the burnt soils, and the electrical conductivity decreased. Finally, the dynamics of the major cations and minor elements were affected differently by the wildfire and rainfall under the different soil conditions. One year after the fire, the most notable changes compared to the unburnt soil were detected in magnesium, potassium and almost all the minor elements. Based on these findings, instructions were given to the land managers (aim to control soil hydrophobicity following wildfire, supply more soil organic matter to the soil to avoid a decline in soil fertility, and use alternative actions to straw mulching to control the soil chemistry) that were aimed at more effective post-fire management in severely burnt areas in Mediterranean forests.

Effects of wildfire, torrential rainfall and straw mulching on the physicochemical soil properties in a Mediterranean forest

Zema, DA;
2023-01-01

Abstract

With the effects of fire, weather and post-fire management on soil properties having been studied mostly individually, there is little understanding of the combined effects of wildfire, heavy storm and straw mulching. In this study, we evaluated the changes in soil properties following a high-severity fire, post-fire soil treatment using straw mulch, and a torrential storm in a forest stand in north-western Portugal. The main physicochemical properties of the soil were evaluated in different soil conditions: a) burnt and untreated, b) burnt and mulched areas, and c) unburnt sites on three survey dates 1) soon after wildfire, 2) after the rainstorm, and 3) one year after wildfire. We found that soil water repellency strongly increased ephemerally immediately after wildfire, decrease after the storm and disappeared after one year. Fire reduced the soil organic matter (by 50%, on average), total nitrogen (by 85-90%) and available phosphorous (by about 45%) at both the mulched and untreated sites, and this effect was not changed by the ensuing rainfall. In comparison to the unburnt sites, the pH increased in the burnt soils, and the electrical conductivity decreased. Finally, the dynamics of the major cations and minor elements were affected differently by the wildfire and rainfall under the different soil conditions. One year after the fire, the most notable changes compared to the unburnt soil were detected in magnesium, potassium and almost all the minor elements. Based on these findings, instructions were given to the land managers (aim to control soil hydrophobicity following wildfire, supply more soil organic matter to the soil to avoid a decline in soil fertility, and use alternative actions to straw mulching to control the soil chemistry) that were aimed at more effective post-fire management in severely burnt areas in Mediterranean forests.
2023
Fire severity
Intense storm
Nutrients
Organic matter
Post-fire management
Soil chemical properties
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12318/141555
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