Agriculturae Conspectus Scientificus, Vol 85, No 4 (2020)

Wildfire Impacts on Soil Physical and Chemical Properties - A Short Review of Recent Studies


Pages: 293-301


Wildfires are key drivers of changes in soils and the ecosystems. The temperatures reached during a wildfire dictate for the most part the post-fire changes in the soil-system. Additionally, the duration and severity of the wildfire, together with different soil characteristics (e.g. soil organic matter or moisture content) play an important part in the direction and nature of the post-fire changes. Wildfires affect the soil by heating and later trough ash incorporation in topsoil. Wildfire severity determines the degree of vegetation and litter combustion and the soil physical and chemical modifications. Post-fire alterations in soil and its hydrological processes promote erosion in the topsoil layer, which is often associated with quantitative and qualitative changes in soil organic matter. The recovery of soil organic matter is the key for the overall recovery of soil quality after a wildfire. The duration and extremity of the changes of soil properties depend on the severity of the wildfire. Wildfire severity is conditioned by various environmental factors, for example vegetation quantity and type, soil temperature and humidity, wind speed and topography. This paper reviews various studies on the impacts of wildfire on soil chemical and physical properties and sums up the current knowledge on the topic that is increasingly becoming a vital component in recognizing and understanding the mechanisms of adaptation of the global ecosystem to climate change. It  is paramount to continue the research of wildfire impacts on soil properties in the attempt to more easily quantify soil degradation processes, predict the ecosystem response to wildfire, and assure the appropriate land management techniques.


wildfires, soil, fire severity, temporal changes

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