Long-term frequent prescribed fire decreases surface soil carbon and nitrogen pools in a wet sclerophyll forest of Southeast Queensland, Australia
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Prescribed fire is one of the most widely-used management tools for reducing fuel loads in managed forests. However the long-term effects of repeated prescribed fires on soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) pools are poorly understood. This study aimed to investigate how different fire frequency regimes influence C and N pools in the surface soils (0–10 cm). A prescribed fire field experiment in a wet sclerophyll forest established in 1972 in southeast Queensland was used in this study. The fire frequency regimes included long unburnt (NB), burnt every 2 years (2yrB) and burnt every 4 years (4yrB), with four replications. Compared with the NB treatment, the 2yrB treatment lowered soil total C by 44%, total N by 54%, HCl hydrolysable C and N by 48% and 59%, KMnO4 oxidizable C by 81%, microbial biomass C and N by 42% and 33%, cumulative CO2–C by 28%, NaOCl-non-oxidizable C and N by 41% and 51%, and charcoal-C by 17%, respectively. The 4yrB and NB treatments showed no significant differences for these soil C and N pools. All soil labile, biologically active and recalcitrant and total C and N pools were correlated positively with each other and with soil moisture content, but negatively correlated with soil pH. The C:N ratios of different C and N pools were greater in the burned treatments than in the NB treatments. This study has highlighted that the prescribed burning at four year interval is a more sustainable management practice for this subtropical forest ecosystem.
Science of the Total Environment
Environmental Sciences not elsewhere classified