Short-term effects of fire intensity on soil organic matter and nutrient release after slash-and-burn in Eastern Province, Zambia

  • Ando K
  • Shinjo H
  • Noro Y
 et al. 
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Abstract

According to the slash-and-burn technique used in Eastern Province,
Zambia, cut trees are piled and burned in only a part of the cleared
fields, because adequate tree biomass is not available to burn the
entire field. Due to a recent decrease in emergent trees, not only
emergent tree piles but also bush tree piles may exist. Therefore, our
objective was to evaluate the changes in soil organic matter followed by
nutrient release occurring immediately after burning in spots unburned
and burned with emergent and bush trees. Fire intensity was
significantly higher where emergent tree piles were present. Total
carbon (C) decreased by 25.1% and 14.7% in spots burned with emergent
and brush tree piles, respectively, while total nitrogen (N) decreased
by 15.0% only at spots burned with emergent tree piles and did not
change significantly elsewhere. Additionally, the mortality of microbes
with soil heating caused an increase in C mineralization after fire. The
levels of available nutrients, such as ammonium nitrogen (NH4-N),
available phosphorus (P), and exchangeable potassium (K) and calcium
(Ca), increased following the decomposition of soil organic matter and
microbial mortality that occurred with an increase in fire intensity.
Net N mineralization did not occur, especially in spots burned with
emergent tree piles, because the N content of labile organic matter
decreased. Maize (Zea mays L.) grain yield increased with fire
intensity, because fire increased nutrient availability and limited weed
biomass. Although the burned emergent and bush tree piles occupied only
6.9 and 7.5% of total cleared field, respectively, the grain yield in
spots burned with emergent and bush trees accounted for 21% and 15% of
the total yield, respectively. Therefore, the burning of bush trees,
which is increasing because of the decreased number of emergent trees,
could result in a decrease in grain yield but could also alleviate the
overall severe loss of soil organic matter.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Burning effects
  • C mineralization
  • N mineralization
  • fire intensity
  • semiarid region

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Authors

  • Kaori Ando

  • Hitoshi Shinjo

  • Yoko Noro

  • Shotaro Takenaka

  • Reiichi Miura

  • Sesele B. Sokotela

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