Early-season fires in boreal black spruce forests produce pyrogenic carbon with low intrinsic recalcitrance
2015 (English)In: Ecology, ISSN 0012-9658, E-ISSN 1939-9170, Vol. 96, no 6, 1575-1585 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Pyrogenic carbon (PyC), a major by-product of wildfires in boreal forests, plays several critical roles in soil biogeochemical processes. However, PyC properties, including its potential recalcitrance, may vary depending on its formation conditions. Our study aimed to characterize the chemical and physical properties of PyC formed under variable fire severity in Eastern Canada boreal forests; these latter represent an important fraction of fire-affected circumboreal ecosystems. A total of 267 PyC samples, produced by early-season wildfires in 2005-2007, were collected <= 5 years after fire from the forest floors of 14 black spruce sites distributed across Quebec, to cover the range of fire severity encountered in these forests. Early-season fires occur frequently in Eastern Canada, and are predicted to increase in regional and global scenarios of future fire regimes associated with climate change. Selected PyC samples were analyzed using elemental analysis, solid-state C-13 nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and surface area analysis. The NMR spectra of the PyC collected on low-fire-severity sites were dominated by peaks indicative of cellulose, while those for PyC from higher-severity sites were dominated by a broad peak assigned to aromatic carbons. Atomic H/C and O/C ratios decreased with increasing fire severity. By comparing field samples to samples produced in the laboratory under controlled formation conditions, we were able to infer that the temperature of formation in the field was low (75 degrees-250 degrees C). In addition, for all PyC samples, the aromatic carbon : total carbon ratio was small, suggesting that PyC produced by early-season fires in these boreal forests may be susceptible to relatively rapid degradation. Taken together, our data suggest that boreal PyC may not be as recalcitrant as previously assumed, and that its influence on soil biogeochemical processes may be short lived.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 96, no 6, 1575-1585 p.
C-13 NMR, boreal forest, Canada, fire severity, forest floor, pyrogenic carbon
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-106023DOI: 10.1890/14-1196.1.smISI: 000356021700013OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-106023DiVA: diva2:839973