Pereira P, Úbeda X, Mataix-Solera J, Oliva M, Novara A: Short-term changes in soil Munsell colour value, organic matter content and soil water repellency after a spring grassland fire in Lithuania. Solid Earth, 5, 209-225. DOI: 10.5194/se-5-209-2014.
Fire is a natural phenomenon with important implications on soil properties. The degree of this impact depends upon fire severity, the ecosystem affected, topography of the burned area and post-fire meteorological conditions. The study of fire effects on soil properties is fundamental to understand the impacts of this disturbance on ecosystems. The aim of this work was to study the short-term effects immediately after the fire (IAF), 2, 5, 7 and 9 months after a low-severity spring boreal grassland fire on soil colour value (assessed with the Munsell colour chart), soil organic matter content (SOM) and soil water repellency (SWR) in Lithuania. Four days after the fire a 400 m2 plot was delineated in an unburned and burned area with the same topographical characteristics. Soil samples were collected at 0–5 cm depth in a 20 m × 20 m grid, with 5 m space between sampling points. In each plot 25 samples were collected (50 each sampling date) for a total of 250 samples for the whole study. SWR was assessed in fine earth (< 2 mm) and sieve fractions of 2–1, 1–0.5, 0.5–0.25 and < 0.25 mm from the 250 soil samples using the water drop penetration time (WDPT) method. The results showed that significant differences were only identified in the burned area. Fire darkened the soil significantly during the entire study period due to the incorporation of ash/charcoal into the topsoil (significant differences were found among plots for all sampling dates). SOM was only significantly different among samples from the unburned area. The comparison between plots revealed that SOM was significantly higher in the first 2 months after the fire in the burned plot, compared to the unburned plot. SWR of the fine earth was significantly different in the burned and unburned plot among all sampling dates. SWR was significantly more severe only IAF and 2 months after the fire. In the unburned area SWR was significantly higher IAF, 2, 5 and 7 months later after than 9 months later. The comparison between plots showed that SWR was more severe in the burned plot during the first 2 months after the fire in relation to the unburned plot. Considering the different sieve fractions studied, in the burned plot SWR was significantly more severe in the first 7 months after the fire in the coarser fractions (2–1 and 1–0.5 mm) and 9 months after in the finer fractions (0.5–0.25 and < 0.25 mm). In relation to the unburned plot, SWR was significantly more severe in the size fractions 2–1 and < 0.25 mm, IAF, 5 and 7 months after the fire than 2 and 9 months later. In the 1–0.5- and 0.5–0.25 mm-size fractions, SWR was significantly higher IAF, 2, 5 and 7 months after the fire than in the last sampling date. Significant differences in SWR were observed among the different sieve fractions in each plot, with exception of 2 and 9 months after the fire in the unburned plot. In most cases the finer fraction (< 0.25 mm) was more water repellent than the others. The comparison between plots for each sieve fraction showed significant differences in all cases IAF, 2 and 5 months after the fire. Seven months after the fire significant differences were only observed in the finer fractions (0.5–0.25 and < 0.25 mm) and after 9 months no significant differences were identified. The correlations between soil Munsell colour value and SOM were negatively significant in the burned and unburned areas. The correlations between Munsell colour value and SWR were only significant in the burned plot IAF, 2 and 7 months after the fire. In the case of the correlations between SOM and SWR, significant differences were only identified IAF and 2 months after the fire. The partial correlations (controlling for the effect of SOM) revealed that SOM had an important influence on the correlation between soil Munsell colour value and SWR in the burned plot IAF, 2 and 7 months after the fire.
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