The effects of prescribed fire on soil nematodes in an arid juniper savanna

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DOI: 10.4236/oje.2014.42009    3,120 Downloads   4,881 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

Prescribed fire produced a landscape with two types of severely burned patches: charred shrub patches and charred patches with tree trunks at the center. Soil nematodes were more abundant in burned and unburned juniper (Juniperus monosperma) tree patches than in yucca-shrub patches. There were no differences in nematode abundance between burned and unburned patches during the late spring and summer samples. Nematode abundance was significantly (p < 0.05) higher in unburned patches than in burned patches in the early spring samples, reflecting large differences in soil moisture between unburned and burned patches. There were no differences in soil nematode abundance between burned and unburned patches at oneyear post-burn and three-year post-burn sites. When all samples were pooled, taxonomic diversity, ecological indices, and abundance of trophic groups (bacteria-feeders, fungi-feeders, and omnivore-predators) were higher in unburned than burned patches. These results suggest that the long-term (up to three years post-burn) effects of fire on soil nematodes are indirect, i.e., by loss of tree canopies, litter accumulation, and shrub foliage, which affects soil temperatures and water redistribution.

Cite this paper

Whitford, W. , Pen-Mouratov, S. and Steinberger, Y. (2014) The effects of prescribed fire on soil nematodes in an arid juniper savanna. Open Journal of Ecology, 4, 66-75. doi: 10.4236/oje.2014.42009.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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