Chapter 3: Soil Chemistry
The chemical properties of the soil that are affected by fire include individual chemical characteristics, chemical reactions, and chemical processes (DeBano and others 1998). The soil chemical characteristics most commonly affected by fire are organic matter, carbon (C), nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), sulfur (S), cations, cation exchange capacity, pH, and buffer power. Some purely chemical reactions occur in soils. These include the exchange of cations adsorbed on the surface of mineral soil particles and humus with their surrounding solutions. Another predominately chemical reaction is the chemical weathering of rocks and their eventual transformation into secondary clay minerals during soil formation. During the chemical decomposition of rock material, the soil and its surrounding solution become enriched with several cations. Associated with the chemical interactions during weathering and soil formation are physical forces (freezing and thawing, wetting and drying) and biological activities (production of organic acids during the decomposition of humus) that also accelerate soil development. The most common chemical processes occurring in soils that are affected by fire, however, are those mechanisms that are involved in nutrient availability and the losses and additions of nutrients to the soil.