Recovery of Forest Soils Following Wildfire

Tedim and Leone (2020) define wildfire as any unplanned and uncontrolled fire started on shrubs or forest. National Geographic has defined the term as an uncontrolled fire that that burns in the wildland vegetation, often in rural areas. The term has also been defined by Belcher et al. (2021) as any non-structure fire other than prescribed fire that occurs in a wildland. Also called vegetation, bush, or forest fire, wildfire has been part and parcel of the earth’s history over the past 400 million years, and is thus not a new phenomenon (Belcher et al., 2021). A wildfire may ignite spontaneously as a result of natural causes such as a lightning strike or may be caused by human activities. Whatever their cause, they can greatly disturb forest soil and ecosystems especially given that fire can have a significant impact on the structural, physical, chemical, mineralogical, and biological properties of soil (Certini, 2005; Shrestha, 2009) through mechanisms such as vitalisation, erosion, oxidation, leaching, and ash transfer (Xiang et al., 2014). The recovery of soil after a forest fire is an issue of great importance to conservationists, environmentalists, governments and other players. This paper seeks to answer the question: can forest soils recover from wildfire? The paper begins by discussing the impact of fire severity on soil properties before focusing on the recovery of forest soils following a wildfire.

Impact of Fire Severity on Soil Properties

Several properties of forest soil can change as a result of exposure to a wild fire. Some of these properties include level of organic carbon, nutrients, water holding capacity, aggregate stability, and hydrophobicity (Agbeshie et al., 2022; DeBano, 1990; Santín & Doerr, 2016). The level of which these properties can be affected depend on the duration, frequency, timing, type, and intensity of fire (Certini 2005; Xiang et al., 2014). Most analysts agree that out of the three factors, fire intensity has the greatest influence on the properties of forest soil during or following a wildfire (Certini, 2005; Santín & Doerr, 2016). Recovery of forest soils following wildfire … Continue reading ...

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