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The Effect of a Prescribed Burn in Southwestern Ponderosa Pine on Organic Matter and Nutrients in Woody Debris and Forest Floor

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After 100 years of fire exclusion, controlled burning in the fall was used as a first step in the reintroduction of periodic burning in a southwestern ponderosa pine ecosystem near Flagstaff, Arizona, U.S.A. Organic matter storage in woody debris was decreased 63 percent from 2,325 g/m² to 869 g/m², with a disproportionate (99 percent) decline in the large, rotten wood. Nutrient storage in the woody debris decreased by 80 percent for N, 62 percent for P, 70 percent for Ca, 71 percent for Mg, and 74 percent for K. Forest floor storages were less drastically affected, with organic matter content declining 37 percent from 3,170 g/m 2 to 1,990 g/m ² 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 months after burning, the forest floor had declined by an additional 440 g/m ² 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 percent), followed by N, P, and Ca, all of which decreased by approximately 25 percent. 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. Forest Sci. 30:183-192.

Keywords: Pinus ponderosa; fire effects; nutrient cycling; prescribed burning

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, USDA Forest Service, Forestry Sciences Laboratory, Tempe, Arizona 85281

Publication date: 1984-03-01

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.702
    Ranking: 16 of 66 in forestry

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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