The effect of fire affected Pinus radiata litter and char addition on soil nitrogen cycling

E. Stirling, R. J. Smernik, L. M. Macdonald, T. R. Cavagnaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In pine forest litters, decomposition rate is directly affected by the pathway the needle followed to the ground, whether that was via programmed apoptosis and abscission or via stress induced loss through branch damage or tree death. Stress induced losses may occur due to fire damage, which leads to a post-fire litter layer composed of non-senescent debris that fell during or after the event. This study investigates decomposition and nitrogen cycling in soils amended with two litters from Pinus radiata plantations that had different recent fire histories. Litters were incubated in the presence or absence of field collected char for up to 94 days. These soil treatments were analysed for microbial activity (soil respiration) and N pools (microbial, mineral, and potentially mineralisable). Soil and litter treatments were additionally incubated in the presence of ammonium nitrate solution to determine N absorption potential of the litters. Respiration was greatest in soils that received fire affected (FA) litter regardless of the presence or absence of char. Nitrogen pools were largely similar between the control (no litter) treatment and not fire affected (NFA) litter treatments. Measured N pools were exceedingly low (92% of samples <2 μg-N g soil −1 where detected) or not detectable (37% of samples below detection limits) in all FA litter treatments at most times. Char appeared inert throughout and had no effects on microbial activity or nitrogen cycling. This study indicates that fire affected pine litter collected four months post fire has strong N absorption properties with or without the presence of char. The presence of fire affected litter is likely to affect N availability for regeneration of forest growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-282
Number of pages7
JournalScience of The Total Environment
Volume664
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Litter decomposition
  • N absorption
  • N cycling
  • Pinus radiata
  • Soil respiration

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