Experimental drought induces short-term changes in soil functionality and microbial community structure after fire in a Mediterranean shrubland

M. B. Hinojosa, A. Parra, V. A. Laudicina, J. M. Moreno
2014 Biogeosciences Discussions  
<p><strong>Abstract.</strong> Fire is a major ecosystem driver, causing significant changes in soil nutrients and microbial community structure and functionality. Post-fire soil dynamics can vary depending on rainfall patterns, although variations in response to drought are poorly known. This is particularly important in areas with poor soils and limited rainfall, like arid and semiarid ones. Furthermore, climate change projections in many such areas anticipate reduced precipitation and longer
more » ... rought, together with an increase in fire severity. The effects of experimental drought and fire were studied on soils in a Mediterranean <i>Cistus-Erica</i> shrubland in Central Spain. A replicated (<i>n</i> = 4) field experiment was carried out in which four levels of rainfall pattern were implemented by means of a rain-out shelters and irrigation system. The treatments were: environmental control (natural rainfall), historical control (long-term 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, the plots were burned with high fire intensity, except a set of unburned plots that served as control. Soils were collected seasonally during one year and variables related to soil nutrient availability and microbial community structure and functionality were studied. Burned soils increased nutrient availability (P, N, K) with respect to unburned ones, but drought reduced such an increase in P, while it further increased N and K. Such changes in available soil nutrients were short-lived. Drought caused a further decrease of enzyme activities, carbon mineralization rate and microbial biomass. Fire decreased the relative abundance of fungi and actinomycetes. However, fire and drought caused a further reduction in fungi, with bacteria becoming relatively more abundant. Arguably, increasing drought and fires due to climate change will likely shift soil recovery after fire.</p>
doi:10.5194/bgd-11-15251-2014 fatcat:xodm75jqjrb7niihfosiatn5ja