The burn severity and plant recovery relationship affect the biological and chemical soil properties of Pinus halepensis Mill. stands in the short and mid-terms after wildfire.


Escuela Técnica Superior Ingenieros Agrónomos y Montes, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Campus Universitario, 02071, Albacete, Spain. Electronic address: [Email]


In the Mediterranean Basin, changes in climate and fire regime (increased recurrence and severity) reduce ecosystem services after wildfires by increasing soil degradation and losses in plant diversity. Our study was a biological approach to relate soil properties to vegetation recovery and burn severity. We focused our study on the natural recovery of the soil-plant interphase in Pinus halepensis Mill. forests located in the SE of Iberian Peninsula, a semiarid climate. We included some chemical properties 3 years after fire (available phosphorus (P) and soil organic carbon (Corg), among others), and biological soil indicators 3 and 5 years after fire (i.e. basal soil respiration (BSR), microbial biomass carbon (Cmic), carbon mineralization coefficient (Cmineral), metabolic quotient (qCO2) and microbial quotient (Cmic:Corg)). We analyzed the activity of three different enzymes: urease (UR), phosphatase (PHP) and β-glucosidase (GLU). The changes in most chemical properties were ephemeral, but P and Corg showed higher values in burned areas, and the highest were found for low-moderate severity. Plant recovery was the triggering factor for the recovery of Corg and biological soil function. Burn severity and time after fire influenced Cmic and the Cmic:Corg, which were higher for moderate-high severity 3 years later, but were below the unburned values 5 years after fire. The microbial activities of GLU and UR were recovered in burned areas 5 years after fire. The PHP values lowered according to higher burn severity and time after fire. The soil ecological trends obtained by a principal component analysis revealed a relationship linking GLU, BSR and qCO2 that explained soil response to burn severity. PHP, Cmic and Cmic:Corg explained most of the variability related to time after fire. Our results provide insights into how burn severity, in Mediterranean fire-prone Aleppo pine stands, modulated the natural plant recovery linked to soil biochemical and microbiological response to fire. High burn severity limited natural vegetation recovery, and both reduced biological soil functionality. This knowledge can be implemented in post-fire planning to apply post-fire management (for mitigation and restoration) in which the "no intervention" tool should be contemplated. These findings provide information to be applied in adaptive forest management to improve the resilience of vulnerable ecosystems and to reduce burn severity in future fire events.


Ecosystem response,Enzymatic activity,Post-fire management,Soil biology,