Changes in soil hydraulic conductivity after prescribed fires in Mediterranean pine forests
Document Type: Journal
Author(s): Pedro A. Plaza-Álvarez ; Manuel E. Lucas-Borja ; J. Sagra ; Demetrio Antonio Zema ; Javier González-Romero ; Daniel Moya ; Jorge de las Heras
Publication Year: 2019

Cataloging Information

  • hydrologic properties
  • low-intensity fire
  • MDI - mini-disk infiltrometer
  • Mediterranean pine forest
  • soil hydraulic conductivity
  • soil infiltration
  • Spain
  • International
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: March 14, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 57095


Prescribed fire removes or reduces the plant material that is prone to forest fires by creating fuel discontinuity and minimising fire intensity. This forest management tool potentially impacts Mediterranean ecosystems hydrological response by influencing water infiltration into soil. As direct measurements (e.g. by infiltrometers) of unsaturated infiltration in soil subjected to prescribed fires are scarce, this study has evaluated changes in soil hydraulic conductivity (SHC) using Minidisk infiltrometer after prescribed fires in representative plots of forests in the Iberian Peninsula under Mediterranean semi-arid conditions: (i) pure forest of Black pine Arnold ssp salzmannii; (ii) mixed forest of Maritime and Black pine; (iii) mixed forest of Aleppo and Maritime pine. The results have shown that fire reduced the organic layer thickness and its organic matter content. Consequently, after the prescribed fire the water content of burned plots was always lower than in untreated soils; conversely, the reverse soil behaviour was noticed before applying fire. Compared to the untreated soils, and with very few exceptions, prescribed fire did not cause significant changes in SHC. No general patterns in the comparisons between treatments (burned/unburned soils), in time evolution after fires and in the interactions between these effects were detected. This means that the SHC of burned soils followed the temporal variations of untreated soils. The lack of significance of these differences between treatments could be due to the low-fire severity and the limited effect of temperature in the mineral layer on soil hydraulic properties. This effect was expected and agrees with other studies. Overall prescribed fires did not alter SHC in Mediterranean forest ecosystems under unsaturated conditions since fire was of low-severity.

Online Link(s):
Plaza-Álvarez, Pedro A.; Lucas-Borja, Manuel E.; Sagra, J.; Zema, Demetrio A.; González-Romero, Javier; Moya, Daniel; De las Heras, J. 2019. Changes in soil hydraulic conductivity after prescribed fires in Mediterranean pine forests. Journal of Environmental Management 232:1021-1027.