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Four centuries of soil carbon and nitrogen change after stand-replacing fire in a forest landscape in the western Cascade Range of Oregon

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Episodic stand-replacing wildfire is a significant disturbance in mesic and moist Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) forests of the Pacific Northwest. We studied 24 forest stands with known fire histories in the western Cascade Range in Oregon to evaluate long-term impacts of stand-replacing wildfire on carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) pools and dynamics within the forest floor (FF, Oe and Oa horizons) and the mineral soil (0–10cm). Twelve of our stands burned approximately 150years ago (“young”), and the other 12 burned approximately 550years ago (“old”). Forest floor mean C and N pools were significantly greater in old stands than young stands (N pools: 1823± 132kg·ha–1 vs. 1450± 98kg·ha–1; C pools: 62 980± 5403kg·ha–1 vs. 49 032± 2965kg·ha–1, mean ± SE) as a result of significant differences in FF mass. Forest floor C and N concentrations and C/N ratios did not differ by time since fire, yet potential N mineralization rates were significantly higher in FF of old sites. Old and young mineral soils did not differ significantly in pools, concentrations, C/N ratios, or cycling rates. Our results suggest that C and N are sequestered in FF of Pacific Northwest Douglas-fir forests over long (~400year) intervals, but that shorter fire return intervals may prevent that accumulation.

Les feux de forêt épisodiques qui entraînent le remplacement des peuplements sont des perturbations importantes dans les forêts mésiques et humides de douglas (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) du Pacific Northwest. Nous avons étudié 24 peuplements forestiers dont l’historique des feux est connu dans le paysage de l’ouest des Cascades en Oregon pour évaluer les impacts à long terme des feux de forêt qui entraînent le remplacement des peuplements sur C et N dans les horizons Oe et Oa de la couverture morte et dans le sol minéral (0–10 cm). Douze peuplements ont brûlé il y a environ 150 ans («jeunes») et 12 autres il y a environ 550 ans («vieux»). Les réserves de C et N dans la couverture morte étaient significativement plus importantes dans les vieux peuplements que dans les jeunes peuplements (réserves de N ± erreur type (ET): 1823 ± 132 kg·ha–1 vs 1450 ± 98 kg·ha–1; réserves de C ± ET: 62980 ± 5403 kg·ha–1 vs 49032 ± 2965 kg·ha–1) à cause de différences significatives dans la masse de la couverture morte. Les concentrations de C et N et les rapports C:N dans la couverture morte ne différaient pas en fonction du temps écoulé depuis le feu mais les taux potentiels de minéralisation de N étaient significativement plus élevés dans la couverture morte des vieux peuplements. Dans le sol minéral, les réserves, les concentrations, les rapports C:N et les taux de recyclage n’étaient pas significativement différents entre les vieux et les jeunes peuplements. Nos résultats indiquent que C et N sont séquestrés dans la couche organique des forêts de douglas du Pacific Northwest pendant de longs (~400 ans) intervalles mais que des intervalles plus courts entre les feux de forêt pourraient empêcher cette accumulation.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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