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Effects of fire on soil nutrients in clearcut and whole-tree harvest sites in central Michigan

TitleEffects of fire on soil nutrients in clearcut and whole-tree harvest sites in central Michigan
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1980
AuthorsAdams PWilliam, Boyle JR
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal

Surface-mineral soil samples from adjacent northern red oak (Quercus rubra L.)-bigtooth aspen (Populus grandidentata Michx.) sites harvested by contrasting methods were evaluated for available Ca, Mg, K, P, and total N before and after a wildfire. Abundant slash from clearcutting contributed to significant and persistent increases in Ca, Mg, K, and N following fire. Sample data grouped by variations in estimated surface burn intensity revealed no significant differences, indicating that slash windrows did not appreciably localize nutrient increases. Minimal residues from whole-tree harvest released smaller quantities of Ca, Mg, and K, and total N exhibited no significant change. Significant increases in soil Ca, Mg, K, and P at both sites occurred within a month after burning. Five months after the fire, soil Ca, Mg, K and P at both sites generally decreased, in some cases to prefire levels. Cation leaching losses from athe surface soils, monitored by porous cup lysimeters at the 1-m depth, increased within 2 months after the fire, but losses appeared to stabilize within 5 months. Leaching losses of Ca were significantly greater in the clear cut site. Although short-term soil nutrient changes following fire were generally positive, the long-term effects on site quality remain in question due to the probably net loss of organic matter and nutrients through volatilization and accelerated leaching.