Post-fire soil functionality and microbial community structure in a Mediterranean shrubland subjected to experimental drought

Vito Armando Laudicina, M. Belén Hinojosa, José M. Moreno, Antonio Parra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Fire may cause significant alterations in soil properties. Post-fire soil dynamics can vary depending, among other factors, on rainfall patterns. However, little is known regarding variations in response to post-fire drought. This is relevant in arid and semiarid areas with poor soils, like much of the western Mediterranean. Furthermore, climate change projections in such areas anticipate reduced precipitation and longer annual drought periods, together with an increase in fire severity and frequency. This research evaluates the effects of experimental drought after fire on soil dynamics of a Cistus-Erica shrubland (Central Spain). A replicated (n = 4) field experiment was conducted in which the total rainfall and its patterns were manipulated by means of a rain-out shelters and irrigation system. The treatments were: environmental control (natural rainfall), historical control (average rainfall, 2. months drought), moderate drought (25% reduction of historical control, 5. months drought) and severe drought (45% reduction, 7. months drought). After one growing season under these rainfall treatments, the plots were burned. One set of unburned plots under natural rainfall served as an additional control. Soils were collected seasonally. Fire increased soil P and N availability. Post-fire drought treatments reduced available soil P but increased N concentration (mainly nitrate). Fire reduced available K irrespective of drought treatments. Fire reduced enzyme activities and carbon mineralization rate, a reduction that was higher in post-fire drought-treated soils. Fire decreased soil microbial biomass and the proportion of fungi, while that of actinomycetes increased. Post-fire drought decreased soil total microbial biomass and fungi, with bacteria becoming more abundant. Our results support that increasing drought after fire could compromise the resilience of Mediterranean ecosystems to fire.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1178-1189
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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