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Effects of wildfire and topography on soil nitrogen availability in a boreal larch forest of northeastern China

Kong, J.-J, J. Yang, H. Chu and X. Xiang. 2015.


Both topography and wildfire can strongly affect soil nitrogen (N) availability. Although many studies have examined the individual effects of fire and topography on N, few have investigated their combined influences and relative importance. In this study, we measured soil extractable inorganic N concentrations, N mineralisation rates, and in situ soil inorganic N supply rates at 36 plots in three topographic positions (north-facing, south-facing and flat valley bottom) of burned and unburned sites in a boreal larch forest of northeastern China. Our data showed that wildfire significantly increased soil N availability, with mean soil extractable inorganic N concentrations, N mineralisation rates and N supply rates being 63, 310 and 270% higher in the burned site 1 year following fire. Additionally, soil N availability in the unburned site was significantly greater on the north-facing slope than on the south-facing slope, though this pattern was reversed at the burned site. Wildfire and topography together explained ~50% of the variance in soil N availability, with wildfire explaining three times more than topography. Our results demonstrate that wildfire and topography jointly affected spatial variations of soil N availability, and that wildfire decreased the influence of topography in the early successional stage of this boreal larch ecosystem.

Key Words

disturbance, Eurasian boreal forest, fire severity, landscape heterogeneity, nitrogen mineralisation.