Soil Ecology

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

Content Detail

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; alterations to soil can affect plant growth and competition, and changes in the soil may enhance or dampen the desired impacts of controlled burning.

Further, soils provide important ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and nutrient retention, which are frequently altered by burning. Additionally, burning effects on the growth rates and persistence of established trees are commonly overlooked.

In this study, we are assessing the impacts of controlled burning on soil biogeochemistry and forest composition by annually comparing adjacent burned and historically unburned forests in The Morton Arboretum’s East Woods. Understanding the effects of burning on soil will help land managers create and modify management practices for the promotion of oaks and ecosystem services.


We rely on you to help the conservation of trees and plants from around the world.

Make a gift