Changes in soil N and P availability in a Pinus canariensis fire chronosequence
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Fire induces changes in ecosystem nutrient regimes and can cause major losses of N and P. Much has been written about the effect of fire on nutrient availability in soil;most studies have been concerned with the short-term effects of shock. The primary objective of our study was to discover the effect of forest fires on long-term N and P availability, for which we used the ion exchange membrane method in a chronosequence of forest fires (1987, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2000 and 2005). The study was conducted on the island of La Palma (Canary Islands, Spain) in October 2006. We hypothesized that a rapid increase in nutrient availability would occur after the fire, followed by a reduction due to erosion and leaching, and then gradual recovery and an eventual return to initial levels. NH4-N, NO3-N and mineral-N availability peaked significantly 1 year after the fire. However, 5 years after the fire the N levels were similar to those found on unburned land. P availability decreased significantly a year after the fire, but gradually recovered over time. The N and P availability ratio increased significantly after the fire, falling during the chronosequence, with the lowest levels found on the unburned land. These results confirm that fire produces (a) a rapid and short-term increase in N availability, without a long-term decline, and (b) a longterm reduction in P availability, which tends to recover over time after the fire.