Changes in soil chemistry six months after prescribed fire in a longleaf pine plantation in MississippiThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Prescribed fire is used to reduce hardwood competition, enhance herbaceous biodiversity, and improve forage quality in longleaf pine stands. These are primarily low intensity, dormant season burns, during which a portion of the biomass in shrub, herb, and the forest floor layers are combusted. Burning releases elemental nutrients bound in biomass, and there are several potential shortterm outcomes: 1) volatilization, 2) surface deposition, 3) uptake by autotrophs, 4) stabilization in soil, and 5) leaching. Several studies have examined long-term effects of repeated burn cycles in southern pine stands [e.g., Binkley and others (1992)] or periods of 1 to 3 years post-burn [e.g., Lavoie and others (2010)], though no significant changes in mineral soil C or N have been reported after one year. There are no detailed reports of intra-annual effects of prescribed fire on soil chemistry in longleaf pine stands. Dormant season burns are followed by leaf-out and the growing season, when uptake of newly released nutrients would be likely to occur.