• Biological and chemical response of a grassland soil to burning

      Picone, L. I.; Quaglia, G.; Garcia, F. O.; Laterra, P. (Society for Range Management, 2003-05-01)
      Changes in soil nutrient pools and microbial activity due to fire are important for understanding the availability of nutrients to plants. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of fire: 1) on size and seasonal dynamics of labile pools of C and N in a short-term after burning; and II) on chemical properties and microbial diversity immediately after fire, in a grassland with Paspalum quadrifarium Lam. Microbial biomass C and N tended to be higher in the burned (433 mg C kg-1 and 37 mg N kg-1) than in the unburned treatment (386 mg C kg-1 and 26 mg N kg-1). Both microbial biomass, decreased at the beginning of the growing season and then recovered at the end of the season. Levels of mineralizable C and N were similar in both treatments; however they showed different patterns of seasonal transformations. At initiation of plant growth, concentration of mineralizable C decreased while amount of mineralizable N increased; but the opposite occurred at the end of the growing season. Increases in microbial biomass coincided with low levels of mineralizable N and high concentrations of mineralizable C, suggesting a higher immobilization at the end of the season. Immediately after burning, organic C and N decreased by 11 and 7%, respectively. Mineral N was almost double, available P increased by 10 mg kg-1; but exchangeable bases, bacterial and actinomycetes population, and urease activity were not affected by burning. Fire can induce immediate changes to the soil; however, long-term studies will be required to evaluate the duration of the effect of fire on soil biological processes and nutrient transformations.