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The effect of a prescribed burn in southwestern usa ponderosa pine pinus ponderosa on organic matter and nutrients in woody debris and forest floor

The effect of a prescribed burn in southwestern usa ponderosa pine pinus ponderosa on organic matter and nutrients in woody debris and forest floor

Forest Science 30(1): 183-192

After 100 yr of fire exclusion, controlled burning in the fall was used as a 1st step in the reintroduction of periodic burning in a southwestern ponderosa pine ecosystem near Flagstaff, Arizona, USA. Organic matter storage in woody debris was decreased 63% from 2325 g/m2 to 869 g/m2, with a disproportionate (99%) decline in the large, rotten wood. Nutrient storage in the woody debris decreased by 80% for N, 62% for P, 70% for Ca, 71% for Mg and 74% for K. Forest floor storages were less drastically affected, with organic matter content declining 37% from 3170 g/m2 to 1990 g/m2 immediately after burning. Nutrient content of the forest floor was not significantly affected by burning due, in part, to the transfer of nutrients from woody debris to the forest floor. By 7 mo. after burning, the forest floor had declined by an additional 440 g/m2 of organic matter, most likely from microbial mineralization. Also during this period forest floor storages for all nutrients declined significantly, except K which was unchanged. Mg exhibited the greatest proportional decline (40%), followed by N, P and Ca, all of which decreased by .apprx. 25%. Numerous potential benefits to productivity may be associated with this prescribed burn: reduced fire hazard, accelerated nutrient mobilization, and reduced forest floor interception of precipitation.

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