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Soil carbon and nitrogen pools in mid- to late-successional forest stands of the northwestern United States: Potential impact of fire


Page-Dumroese, Deborah S.; Jurgensen, Martin F. 2006. Soil carbon and nitrogen pools in mid- to late-successional forest stands of the northwestern United States: Potential impact of fire. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 36(9): 2270-2284.

doi: 10.1139/x06-125

When sampling woody residue (WR) and organic matter (OM) present in forest floor, soil wood, and surface mineral soil (0­30 cm) in 14 mid- to late-successional stands across a wide variety of soil types and climatic regimes in the northwestern USA, we found that 44%-84% of carbon (C) was in WR and surface OM, whereas >80% of nitrogen (N) was in the mineral soil. In many northwestern forests fire suppression and natural changes in stand composition have increased the amounts of WR and soil OM susceptible to wildfire losses. Stands with high OM concentrations on the soil surface are at greater risk of losing large amounts of C and N after high-severity surface fires. Using the USDA Forest Service Regional Soil Quality Standards and Guidelines, we estimate that 6%-80% of the pooled C to a mineral-soil depth of 30 cm could be lost during a fire considered detrimental to soil productivity. These estimates will vary with local climatic regimes, fire severity across the burned area, the size and decay class of WR, and the distribution of OM in the surface organic and mineral soil. Estimated N losses due to fire were much lower (<1%-19%). Further studies on the amounts and distribution of OM in these stands are needed to assess wildfire risk, determine the impacts of different fire severities on WR and soil OM pools, and develop a link between C and N losses and stand productivity.

Keywords: woody residue (WR), organic matter (OM), sampling, carbon, nitrogen, soil


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Title: RMRS Other Publications: Soil carbon and nitrogen pools in mid- to late-successional forest stands of the northwestern United States: Potential impact of fire
Electronic Publish Date: May 14, 2013
Last Update:
May 14, 2013

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