Short term effects of an experimental surface fire on soil properties and soil surface CO2 fluxes in a Pinus sylvestris forest in southern-Finland

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Title: Short term effects of an experimental surface fire on soil properties and soil surface CO2 fluxes in a Pinus sylvestris forest in southern-Finland
Author: Kohli, Juliana
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Maatalous-metsätieteellinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry
Helsingfors universitet, Agrikultur- och forstvetenskapliga fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2021
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Metsätieteiden maisteriohjelma
Master's Programme in Forest Sciences
Magisterprogrammet i skogsvetenskaper
Specialisation: Metsien ekologia ja käyttö
Forest Ecology and Management
Skoglig ekologi och resurshushållning
Abstract: Boreal forests are an important storage of carbon (C), representing over one-third of terrestrial C stocks. The continuity of C storage in boreal forests and forest soils is critical to mitigate climate change. Climate change will likely increase the fire season length and the frequency of forest fires in Finland, of which surface fires are the dominant type. Fire affects C dynamics by modifying biotic (SOM, vegetation, microbial activity) and abiotic (soil temperature, moisture, chemistry) components of the forest ecosystem. These fire-induced effects will depend on the intensity of the fire (duration, flame temperature) and the site characteristics, ultimately resulting in either the persistence of, or in a net C loss, which has implications on both a local and global scale. There is a lack of existing research regarding the short-term impacts of surface forest fires and comparisons between different fire intensities. Subsequently, this thesis describes an experimental burn conducted in an even-aged Pinus sylvestris forest in southern Finland and the short- term post-fire impacts on soil biogeochemical processes (June-October 2020). The aims of this study were: (1) to study the effects of low- (200-300 oC) and high- (500-600 oC) intensity surface fires on soil temperature, moisture and soil surface CO2 fluxes straight after fire and through four months after experimental fire; (2) to study the effects of low- and high-intensity surface fires on plant (above and below ground) biomass immediately and four months after fire; (3) to identify the most important factors driving soil CO2 effluxes shortly after the fire. Eight sample plots (225 m2 each) were used, divided between high and low biomass loads to achieve high- and low-intensity fires. Continuous soil temperature and moisture measurements, vegetation inventories, soil sampling (0-30 cm), and soil CO2 efflux measurements were obtained using portable chambers. The results of this study showed that some soil physical and chemical properties were significantly altered due to the experimental surface fire (vegetation, temperature, moisture, root biomass, C, N (nitrogen), C/N), whereas some remained unchanged (pH, humus thickness). Soil moisture was the only variable, which increased as a result of higher fire intensity. Fires at both intensities resulted in the mortality of ground vegetation whilst trees did not experience mortality by the end of the monitoring period. Soil CO2 fluxes decreased in burned areas compared to unburned plots over time, but this change was not significantly different between burning intensities. Future research should investigate the mechanisms of C and N translocation through the soil profile following the addition of water, the relationship between post-fire soil temperature and soil CO2 efflux, how burning different biomass components changes the composition of ash, and how larger differences in burning intensities affect soil properties and soil CO2 effluxes. If trees experience mortality after the time period encompassed by this study, the site could become a potential C source; further monitoring of the study site could account for delayed indirect impacts such as these.
Subject: Soil CO2 efflux
surface fire
experimental burn
forest fire
soil properties
boreal forest
Pinus sylvestris

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