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Spatial variability in soil nitrogen dynamics after prescribed burning in Ohio mixed-oak forests

Boerner, Ralph E. J.; Morris, Sherri Jeakins; Sutherland, Elaine Kennedy; Hutchinson, Todd F. 2000. Spatial variability in soil nitrogen dynamics after prescribed burning in Ohio mixed-oak forests. Landscape Ecology. 15: 425-439.

This study describes the results of the application of a single dormant season prescribed fire to two southern Ohio forest sites for the purposes of restoring the ecosystem functional properties that existed in these sites prior to major human intervention (clearcutting, fire suppression, and atmospheric deposition). Each forest site was composed of three contiguous watershed units, two of which were burned in April of 1996. The forest sites differed in soil pH and available litter mass prior to the fires, and in both sites pH and available inorganic N varied among landscape positions such that inorganic C increased with increasing longterm soil moisture potential (measured as the GIS-derived Integrated Moisture Index [IMI] developed for this region). The fire temperatures at 10 cm above the litter surface were generally 150-300 C, and 29-80% of the litter was consumed, depending on site and landscape position. Soil solution total inorganicN (TIN) present one month after the fires did not differ significantly from that present prior to the fires in either burned or unburned watersheds, but was consistently greater in mesic landscape positions than in more xeric ones. N mineralization potential and organic C content varied both among fires and landscape positions. At the site which burned at higher intensity, soil N mineralization and TIN were both decreased by fire. At the less intensely burned site, fire resulted in increased TIN in the soils from the more xeric landscape position, and greater soil organic C in soils from the intermediate soil moisture areas. Path analysis produced models for fire-induced changes in C and N dynamics capable of explaining 26­69% of the observed variation using combinations of landscape and fire behavior. Losses of N to volatilization from these single fires were generally < 1 kg N/ha, and thus could not be expected to ameliorate the effects of atmospheric N deposition in these sites.

Keywords: fire, landscape, N mineralization, oak-hickory forest, restoration

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Title: RMRS Other Publications: Spatial variability in soil nitrogen dynamics after prescribed burning in Ohio mixed-oak forests
Electronic Publish Date: September 27, 2011
Last Update:
September 27, 2011

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