Rapid shifts in soil nutrients and decomposition enzyme activity in early succession following forest fire
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Joseph E. Knelman; Emily B. Graham; Scott M. Ferrenberg; Aurélien Lecoeuvre; Amanda Labrado; John L. Darcy; Diana R. Nemergut; Steven K. Schmidt
Publication Year: 2017

Cataloging Information

  • bacterial community structure
  • carbon
  • decomposition
  • disturbance
  • Ecosystem Process
  • exoenzymes
  • extracellular enzymes
  • fire severity
  • forest fire
  • forest management
  • glacier forefield
  • nitrogen
  • nitrogen limitation
  • plant colonization
  • post-fire recovery
  • respiration
  • soil enzymes
  • soil nutrients
  • soil organic matter
  • stoichiometry
  • succession
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: December 13, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 55675
Tall Timbers Record Number: 33749
TTRS Location Status: Not in file
TTRS Call Number: Available
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


While past research has studied forest succession on decadal timescales, ecosystem responses to rapid shifts in nutrient dynamics within the first months to years of succession after fire (e.g., carbon (C) burn-off, a pulse in inorganic nitrogen (N), accumulation of organic matter, etc.) have been less well documented. This work reveals how rapid shifts in nutrient availability associated with fire disturbance may drive changes in soil enzyme activity on short timescales in forest secondary succession. In this study, we evaluate soil chemistry and decomposition extracellular enzyme activity (EEA) across time to determine whether rapid shifts in nutrient availability (1-29 months after fire) might control microbial enzyme activity. We found that, with advancing succession, soil nutrients correlate with C-targeting b-1,4-glucosidase (BG) EEA four months after the fire, and with N-targeting b-1,4-N-acetylglucosaminidase (NAG) EEA at 29 months after the fire, indicating shifting nutrient limitation and decomposition dynamics. We also observed increases in BG: NAG ratios over 29 months in these recently burned soils, suggesting relative increases in microbial activity around C-cycling and C-acquisition. These successional dynamics were unique from seasonal changes we observed in unburned, forested reference soils. Our work demonstrates how EEA may shift even within the first months to years of ecosystem succession alongside common patterns of post-fire nutrient availability. Thus, this work emphasizes that nutrient dynamics in the earliest stages of forest secondary succession are important for understanding rates of C and N cycling and ecosystem development.

Online Link(s):
Knelman, J. E., E. B. Graham, S. Ferrenberg, A. Lecoeuvre, A. Labrado, J. L. Darcy, D. R. Nemergut, and S. K. Schmidt. 2017. Rapid shifts in soil nutrients and decomposition enzyme activity in early succession following forest fire. Forests, v. 8, no. 9, p. 347. 10.3390/f8090347.