Leaving moss and litter layers undisturbed reduces the short-term environmental consequences of heathland managed burns

Grau-Andrés, R., Davies, G. M., Waldron, S. , Scott, E. M. and Gray, A. (2017) Leaving moss and litter layers undisturbed reduces the short-term environmental consequences of heathland managed burns. Journal of Environmental Management, 204(1), pp. 102-110. (doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.08.017) (PMID:28865305)

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Abstract

Variation in the structure of ground fuels, i.e. the moss and litter (M/L) layer, may be an important control on fire severity in heather moorlands and thus influence vegetation regeneration and soil carbon dynamics. We completed experimental fires in a Calluna vulgaris-dominated heathland to study the role of the M/L layer in determining (i) fire-induced temperature pulses into the soil and (ii) post-fire soil thermal dynamics. Manually removing the M/L layer before burning increased fire-induced soil heating, both at the soil surface and 2 cm below. Burnt plots where the M/L layer was removed simulated the fuel structure after high severity fires where ground fuels are consumed but the soil does not ignite. Where the M/L layer was manually removed, either before or after the fire, post-fire soil thermal dynamics showed larger diurnal and seasonal variation, as well as similar patterns to those observed after wildfires, compared to burnt plots where the M/L layer was not manipulated. We used soil temperatures to explore potential changes in post-fire soil respiration. Simulated high fire severity (where the M/L layer was manually removed) increased estimates of soil respiration in warm months. With projected fire regimes shifting towards higher severity fires, our results can help land managers develop strategies to balance ecosystem services in Calluna-dominated habitats.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Waldron, Professor Susan and Scott, Professor E Marian and Grau Andres, Mr Roger and Davies, Dr Gwilym
Authors: Grau-Andrés, R., Davies, G. M., Waldron, S., Scott, E. M., and Gray, A.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
College of Science and Engineering > School of Mathematics and Statistics > Statistics
Journal Name:Journal of Environmental Management
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0301-4797
ISSN (Online):1095-8630
Published Online:03 September 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 The Authors
First Published:First published in Journal of Environmental Management 204(1):102-110
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
581921Understanding the impact of severe wildfires on ecosystem carbon dynamicsGwilym DaviesNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/J006289/1IS - INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES