How clear-cutting affects fire severity and soil properties in a Mediterranean ecosystem

Marcos Francos, Paulo Alexandre da Silva Pereira, Jorge Mataix-Solera, Victoria Arcenegui, Meritxell Alcañiz, Xavier Ubeda

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Forest management practices in Mediterranean ecosystems are frequently employed to reduce both the risk and severity of wildfires. However, these pre-fire treatments may influence the effects of wildfire events on soil properties. The aim of this study is to examine the short-term effects of a wildfire that broke out in 2015 on the soil properties of three sites: two exposed to management practices in different years 2005 (site M05B) and 2015 (site M15B) - and one that did not undergo any management (NMB) and to compare their properties with those recorded in a plot (Control) unaffected by the 2015 wildfire. We analyzed aggregate stability (AS), soil organic matter (SOM) content, total nitrogen (TN), carbon/nitrogen ratio (C/N), inorganic carbon (IC), pH, electrical conductivity (EC), extractable calcium (Ca), "magnesium (Mg), sodium (Na), and potassium (K), microbial biomass carbon (C-mic) and basal soil respiration (BSR). In the managed plots, a clear-cutting operation was conducted, whereby part of the vegetation was cut and left covering the soil surface. The AS values recorded at the Control site were significantly higher than those recorded at M05B, whereas the TN and SOM values at NMB were significantly higher than those recorded at M05B. IC was significantly higher at M05B than at the other plots. There were no significant differences in C/N ratio between the analyzed sites. Soil pH at M05B was significantly higher than the value recorded at the Control plot. Extractable Ca was significantly higher at NMB than at both M05B and the Control, while extractable Mg was significantly lower at M05B than at NMB. Extractable K was significantly lower at the Control than at the three fire-affected plots. Cmic was significantly higher at NMB than at the Control. BSR, BSR/C and BSR/C-mic values at the fire-affected sites were significantly lower than those recorded at the Control. No significant differences were identified in C-mic/C. Overall, a comparison of the pre-fire treatments showed that NMB was the practice that had the least negative effects on the soil properties studied, followed by M15B, and that fire severity was highest at MO5B due to the accumulation of dead plant fuel.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-632
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 2018



  • Pre-fire management Soil properties Fire severity Wildfire

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