Soil Ecology

Prescription Side Effects: Controlled Burn Impacts on Soil Biogeochemistry and Forest Dynamics

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In eastern deciduous forests, burning is a common forest management technique used to control invasive understory plants (such as buckthorn and thistle) and promote oak regeneration. However, little is known about how controlled burns impact soils.

As alterations to soil can affect plant growth and competition, changes in the soil may enhance or dampen the desired impacts of controlled burning. This study assesses the impacts of controlled burning on soil biogeochemistry by comparing adjacent annually burned and historically unburned forests in The Morton Arboretum’s East Woods.

In addition, the research team is conducting a meta-analysis to assess the extent to which burning impacts on soils mediate burning impacts on tree seedlings and invasive species across the eastern United States. Understanding the effects of burning on soil will help land managers create and modify management practices for the promotion of oaks or any other species.


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