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Title: Wildfire and forest disease interaction lead to greater loss of soil nutrients and carbon

Author: Cobb, Richard C.; Meentemeyer, Ross K.; Rizzo, David M.;

Date: 2016

Source: Oecologia. 182(1): 265-276

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Fire and forest disease have significant ecological impacts, but the interactions of these two disturbances are rarely studied. We measured soil C, N, Ca, P, and pH in forests of the Big Sur region of California impacted by the exotic pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, cause of sudden oak death, and the 2008 Basin wildfire complex. In Big Sur, overstory tree mortality following P. ramorum invasion has been extensive in redwood and mixed evergreen forests, where the pathogen kills true oaks and tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus). Sampling was conducted across a full-factorial combination of disease/no disease and burned/unburned conditions in both forest types. Forest floor organic matter and associated nutrients were greater in unburned redwood compared to unburned mixed evergreen forests. Post-fire element pools were similar between forest types, but lower in burned-invaded compared to burned-uninvaded plots. We found evidence disease-generated fuels led to increased loss of forest floor C, N, Ca, and P. The same effects were associated with lower %C and higher PO4–P in the mineral soil. Fire–disease interactions were linear functions of pre-fire host mortality which was similar between the forest types. Our analysis suggests that these effects increased forest floor C loss by as much as 24.4 and 21.3 % in redwood and mixed evergreen forests, respectively, with similar maximum losses for the other forest floor elements. Accumulation of sudden oak death generated fuels has potential to increase fire-related loss of soil nutrients at the region-scale of this disease and similar patterns are likely in other forests, where fire and disease overlap.

Keywords: Phytophthora ramorum, Sudden oak death, Tanoak, Nitrogen, Invasive pathogens, Ecosystem disease impacts

Publication Notes:

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Cobb, Richard C.; Meentemeyer, Ross K.; Rizzo, David M. 2016. Wildfire and forest disease interaction lead to greater loss of soil nutrients and carbon. Oecologia. 182(1): 265-276.


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