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The effect of fire on soil organic matter—a review

AuthorsGonzález-Pérez, José Antonio ; González-Vila, Francisco Javier ; Almendros Martín, Gonzalo ; Knicker, Heike
Carbon cycle
Black carbon
Forest fires
Humic acids
Fulvic acids
Issue Date2004
PublisherPergamon Press
CitationEnvironment International 30(6): 855–870 (2004)
AbstractThe extent of the soil organic carbon pool doubles that present in the atmosphere and is about two to three times greater than that accumulated in living organisms in all Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems. In such a scenario, one of the several ecological and environmental impacts of fires is that biomass burning is a significant source of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. Nevertheless, the oxidation of biomass is usually incomplete and a range of pyrolysis compounds and particulate organic matter (OM) in aerosols are produced simultaneously to the thermal modification of pre-existing C forms in soil. These changes lead to the evolution of the OM to ‘‘pyromorphic humus’’, composed by rearranged macromolecular substances of weak colloidal properties and an enhanced resistance against chemical and biological degradation. Hence the occurrence of fires in both undisturbed and agricultural ecosystems may produce long-lasting effects on soils’ OM composition and dynamics. Due to the large extent of the C pool in soils, small deviations in the different C forms may also have a significant effect in the global C balance and consequently on climate change. This paper reviews the effect of forest fires on the quantity and quality of soils’ OM. It is focused mainly on the most stable pool of soil C; i.e., that having a large residence time, composed of free lipids, colloidal fractions, including humic acids (HA) and fulvic acids (FA), and other resilient forms. The main transformations exerted by fire on soil humus include the accumulation of new particulate C forms highly resistant to oxidation and biological degradation including the socalled ‘‘black carbon’’ (BC). Controversial environmental implications of such processes, specifically in the stabilisation of C in soil and their bearing on the global C cycle are discussed.
Description16 páginas, 8 figuras, 5 tablas, 142 referencias.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2004.02.003
Appears in Collections:(IRNAS) Artículos
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