Fire and soil-plant nutrient relations in a pine-wiregrass savanna on the coastal plain of North Carolina.
Changes in soil and plant nutrient conditions were evaluated following various burn and clip treatments in a longleaf pine-wiregrass savanna in Bladen Co., N.C., USA. Ground fires were found to add substantial quantities of N, P, K, Ca, and Mg to the soil, though not necessarily in forms immediately available to plants. Less than 1% of the total nitrogen in the charred residue (ash) is present as nitrate or ammonium. Considerable quantities of all nutrients examined were lost to the atmosphere during burning. Green leaf tissue in recently burned areas was consistently higher in N, P, K, Ca, and Mg compared to unburned areas. Howerver, when compared to similar tissues from clipped plots, burned area tissues were significantly higher in N, Ca, and Mg only. Data presented here suggest that tissue age significantly affects nutrient content and must be considered in any analysis of tissue nutrient content following burning. Within 4-6 months following fire, burned-area tissue nutrient content decreases to concentrations found in the unburned area. Burning resulted in initial enrichment of available soil nutrients including PO4, K+, Ca++, and Mg++, however, NO3-, and NH4+ concentrations in burned soil were not significantly different from unbruned soil. Soil and plant nutrient changes in an area burned two years in succession indicate that repeated burning may diminish nutrient availability. Plant response to various nutrient enrichment treatments of the soil indicated that nitrogen is limiting growth in both burned and unburned soils and that burning may alter some factors other than nutrients which may retard plant growth in unburned areas.
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