Articles | Volume 4, issue 3
22 Jun 2007
22 Jun 2007

Minor changes in soil organic carbon and charcoal concentrations detected in a temperate deciduous forest a year after an experimental slash-and-burn

E. Eckmeier, R. Gerlach, J. O. Skjemstad, O. Ehrmann, and M. W. I. Schmidt

Abstract. Anthropogenic fires affected the temperate deciduous forests of Central Europe over millennia. Biomass burning releases carbon to the atmosphere and produces charcoal, which potentially contributes to the stable soil carbon pools and is an important archive of environmental history. The fate of charcoal in soils of temperate deciduous forests, i.e. the processes of charcoal incorporation and transportation and the effects on soil organic matter are still not clear. We investigated the effects of slash-and-burn at a long-term experimental burning site and determined soil organic carbon and charcoal carbon concentrations as well as the soil lightness of colour (L*) in the topmost soil material (0–1, 1–2.5 and 2.5–5 cm depths) before, immediately after the fire and one year later. The main results are that (i) only a few of the charcoal particles from the forest floor were incorporated into the soil matrix, presumably by soil mixing animals. In the 0–1 cm layer, during one year, the charcoal C concentration increased only by 0.4 g kg−1 and the proportion of charcoal C to SOC concentration increased from 2.8 to 3.4%; (ii) the SOC concentrations did not show any significant differences; (iii) soil lightness decreased significantly in the topmost soil layer and correlated well with the concentrations of charcoal C (r=−0.87**) and SOC (r=−0.94**) in the samples from the 0–5 cm layer. We concluded that Holocene biomass burning could have influenced soil charcoal concentrations and soil colour.

Final-revised paper