Proceedings of the International Academy of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, 2012, 2(3): 168-176
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Impact of forest fire on physical, chemical and biological properties of soil: A review

Satyam Verma, S. Jayakumar
Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Pondicherry University, Puducherry-605 014, India

Received 31 March 2012;Accepted 6 May 2012;Published online 1 September 2012

Forest fire is very common to all the ecosystems of the world. It affects both vegetation and soil. It is also helpful in maintaining diversity and stability of ecosystems. Effect of forest fire and prescribed fire on forest soil is very complex. It affects soil organic matter, macro and micro-nutrients, physical properties of soil like texture, colour, pH, Bulk Density as well as soil biota. The impact of fire on forest soil depends on various factors such as intensity of fire, fuel load and soil moisture. Fire is beneficial as well as harmful for the forest soil depending on its severity and fire return interval. In low intensity fires, combustion of litter and soil organic matter increase plant available nutrients, which results in rapid growth of herbaceous plants and a significant increase in plant storage of nutrients. Whereas high intensity fires can result into complete loss of soil organic matter, volatilization of N, P, S, K, death of microbes, etc. Intense forest fire results into formation of some organic compounds with hydrophobic properties, which results into high water repellent soils. Forest fire also causes long term effect on forest soil. The purpose of this paper is to review the effect of forest fire on various properties of soil, which are important in maintaining healthy ecosystem.

Keywords forest soil;wildfires;soil organic carbon;plant available nutrients;soil dwelling invertebrates;soil physical characteristics.

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