Prescribed burning is a common management practice in loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) ecosystems. Several studies have examined the volatilization losses of nitrogen (N), but little information is available on subsequent availability of N. We examined the effects of a low-intensity prescribed fire in a mature stand of loblolly pine and found no significnt reduction in the N content of the forest floor. However, the decomposition rate of the forest floor more than doubled for the first growing season after burning. This decomposition released 60 kg N ha-¹ more than measured for an unburned portion of the same stand. Increased N availability was also indicated by analysis of foliage and soil incubations. This pulse of available nitrogen may have a fertilization effect on pine growth and might substitute for late-rotation applications of N fertilizer. © 1986 Elsevier Science.