Response of surface horizons in an oak forest to prescribed burning

Debra Phillips, J.E. Foss, E.R. Buckner, R.M. Evans, E.A. FitzPatrick

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    28 Citations (Scopus)


    The reduction of forest floor ground cover and litter layers by prescribed fires may alter the morphology (field and micro) and physical properties of surface horizons. This study determined long-term (35 yr) changes in surface horizon bulk density, organic matter concentration and content, and morphology in response to periodic (5 yr) and annual (1 yr) prescribed fires. Soils were fine-silty, siliceous, thermic Glossic Fragiuldults, supporting mixed oak vegetation in middle Tennessee. Upper mineral soils (0- to 2-cm and 0- to 7.6-cm depths) were sampled and detailed field descriptions made. Periodic and control plots had a thin layer of Oi, Oe, and Oa horizons 5 yr after the 1993 burn, whereas on annual burn plots a 1- to 2-cm charred layer was present. Significant reductions in organic matter concentration and mean thickness of the A horizon were found from burning (A horizons thicknesses were 6.4, 4.6, and 2.9 cm in control, periodic, and annual plots, respectively). Periodic burns did not significantly alter the organic matter and bulk density of the upper 7.6 cm of mineral soil; however, annual burns did result in significantly higher bulk densities (1.01, 1.07, and 1.29 Mg m-3 in control, periodic, and annual plots, respectively) and lower organic matter concentrations and contents. Microscopic investigations confirmed that compaction was increased from annual burning. Thin sections also revealed that the granular structure of the A horizons in control and periodic plots resulted from bioterbation of macro and mesofauna, fungi, and roots. Long-term annual burning greatly affected surface soil properties, whereas periodic burning on a 5-yr cycle had only limited effects.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)754-760
    Number of pages7
    JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2000

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Soil Science
    • Earth-Surface Processes


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