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Volume 8, issue 12
Biogeosciences, 8, 3649–3659, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Biogeosciences, 8, 3649–3659, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 14 Dec 2011

Research article | 14 Dec 2011

Aeolian nutrient fluxes following wildfire in sagebrush steppe: implications for soil carbon storage

N. J. Hasselquist1,*, M. J. Germino1,**, J. B. Sankey2,***, L. J. Ingram1,****, and N. F. Glenn2 N. J. Hasselquist et al.
  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho State University, 921 S 8th Ave, Stop 8007, Pocatello, ID 83209, USA
  • 2Department of Geosciences, Idaho State University-Boise, 322 E. Front St., Suite 240, Boise, ID 83702, USA
  • *current address: Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Skogsmarksgrand 1, Umea, 90183, Sweden
  • **current address: USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center-Snake River Field Station, 970 Lusk St, Boise, ID 83706, USA
  • ***current address: USGS Southwest Geographic Science Center and USA-National Phenology Network, 1955 E 6th St, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
  • ****current address: Faculty of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources, The University of Sydney, 107 Cobbitty Rd, Cobbitty, NSW 2570, Australia

Abstract. Pulses of aeolian transport following fire can profoundly affect the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients in semi-arid and arid ecosystems. Our objective was to determine horizontal nutrient fluxes occurring in the saltation zone during an episodic pulse of aeolian transport that occurred following a wildfire in a semi-arid sagebrush steppe ecosystem in southern Idaho, USA. We also examined how temporal trends in nutrient fluxes were affected by changes in particle sizes of eroded mass as well as nutrient concentrations associated with different particle size classes. In the burned area, total carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) fluxes were as high as 235 g C m−1 d−1 and 19 g N m−1 d−1 during the first few months following fire, whereas C and N fluxes were negligible in an adjacent unburned area throughout the study. Temporal variation in C and N fluxes following fire was largely attributable to the redistribution of saltation-sized particles. Total N and organic C concentrations in the soil surface were significantly lower in the burned relative to the unburned area one year after fire. Our results show how an episodic pulse of aeolian transport following fire can affect the spatial distribution of soil C and N, which, in turn, can have important implications for soil C storage. These findings demonstrate how an ecological disturbance can exacerbate a geomorphic process and highlight the need for further research to better understand the role aeolian transport plays in the biogeochemical cycling of C and N in recently burned landscapes.

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