Publication Details

Sawyer, R., Bradstock, R., Bedward, M. & Morrison, R. John. (2018). Soil carbon in Australian fire-prone forests determined by climate more than fire regimes. Science of the Total Environment, 639 526-537.


Knowledge of global C cycle implications from changes to fire regime and climate are of growing importance. Studies on the role of the fire regime in combination with climate change on soil C pools are lacking. We used Bayesian modelling to estimate the soil % total C (% C Tot ) and % recalcitrant pyrogenic C (% RPC) from field samples collected using a stratified sampling approach. These observations were derived from the following scenarios: 1. Three fire frequencies across three distinctive climate regions in a homogeneous dry sclerophyll forest in south-eastern Australia over four decades. 2. The effects of different fire intensity combinations from successive wildfires. We found climate had a stronger effect than fire frequency on the size of the estimated mineral soil C pool. The largest soil C pool was estimated to occur under a wet and cold (WC) climate, via presumed effects of high precipitation, an adequate growing season temperature (i.e. resulting in relatively high NPP) and winter conditions sufficiently cold to retard seasonal soil respiration rates. The smallest soil C pool was estimated in forests with lower precipitation but warmer mean annual temperature (MAT). The lower precipitation and higher temperature was likely to have retarded NPP and litter decomposition rates but may have had little effect on relative soil respiration. Small effects associated with fire frequency were found, but both their magnitude and direction were climate dependent. There was an increase in soil C associated with a low intensity fire being followed by a high intensity fi re. For both fire frequency and intensity the response of % RPC mirrored that of % C Tot : i.e. it was effectively a constant across all combinations of climate and fire regimes sampled.



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