Wildfire impact: Natural experiment reveals differential short-term changes in soil microbial communities

Prendergast-Miller, Miranda, de Menezes, Alexandre B., Macdonald, Lynne M., Toscas, Peter, Bissett, Andrew, Baker, Geoff, Farrell, Mark, Richardson, Alan E., Wark, Tim and Thrall, Peter H. (2017) Wildfire impact: Natural experiment reveals differential short-term changes in soil microbial communities. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 109. pp. 1-13. ISSN 0038-0717

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.soilbio.2017.01.027


A wildfire which overran a sensor network site provided an opportunity (a natural experiment) to monitor short-term post-fire impacts (immediate and up to three months post-fire) in remnant eucalypt woodland and managed pasture plots. The magnitude of fire-induced changes in soil properties and soil microbial communities was determined by comparing (1) variation in fire-adapted eucalypt woodland vs. pasture grassland at the burnt site; (2) variation at the burnt woodland-pasture sites with variation at two unburnt woodland-pasture sites in the same locality; and (3) temporal variation pre- and post-fire. In the eucalypt woodland, soil ammonium, pH and ROC content increased post-fire, while in the pasture soil, soil nitrate increased post-fire and became the dominant soluble N pool. However, apart from distinct changes in N pools, the magnitude of change in most soil properties was small when compared to the unburnt sites. At the burnt site, bacterial and fungal community structure showed significant temporal shifts between pre- and post-fire periods which were associated with changes in soil nutrients, especially N pools. In contrast, microbial communities at the unburnt sites showed little temporal change over the same period. Bacterial community composition at the burnt site also changed dramatically post-fire in terms of abundance and diversity, with positive impacts on abundance of phyla such as Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria and Firmicutes. Large and rapid changes in soil bacterial community composition occurred in the fire-adapted woodland plot compared to the pasture soil, which may be a reflection of differences in vegetation composition and fuel loading. Given the rapid yet differential response in contrasting land uses, identification of key soil bacterial groups may be useful in assessing recovery of fire-adapted ecosystems, especially as wildfire frequency is predicted to increase with global climate change.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Environmental disturbance, Bacteria, Fungi, Eucalypt, Australia, Fire-adapted ecosystem
Subjects: C100 Biology
C500 Microbiology
C700 Molecular Biology, Biophysics and Biochemistry
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2019 16:20
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2021 10:36
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/40503

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