Impact of thermal shock on forest soils affected by fires of different severity and recurrence


Thermal treatments in the laboratory were conducted using unburned and burned samples of two soils affected by low- or high severity fires in order to study their impact on forests ecosystems with different fire regimes (severity, recurrence). Soils samples were heated in a furnace for 15 minutes at 50 ºC, 75 ºC, 100 ºC, 125 ºC, 150 ºC, 175 ºC, 200 ºC and 300 ºC to simulate different fire intensities; the process was repeated after a 1 month incubation of the burned, rewetted samples in order to simulate fire recurrence. The soil temperature was measured with thermocouples at the surface and 1 cm depth. The maximum temperature reached (Tmax) and the amount of heat supplied to the samples (degree-hour, DH) were calculated from the temperature-time curves. A total of 128 temperature-time curves (4 soil field samples x 8 heating temperatures x 2 depths x 2 successive heat treatments) were analyzed and the estimation of several soil physical and chemical properties (color, moisture content, pH, total C, total N, soluble C) was carried out in the different soil treatments. High-severity burning provoked significant changes on these physical and chemical properties, whereas slight modifications or even no changes were due to low-severity burning or soil heating under laboratory conditions. The thermal properties exhibited a higher sensitivity for the detection of the fire regime impact than the physical and chemical properties. The results showed that the temperature-time curves and derived parameters (slope, Tmax, DH) can be successfully used to quantify the impact of thermal shocks at low and high temperatures and to evaluate the effect of fire/heating recurrence on forests ecosystems.


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