Soil dynamics following fire in Juncus and Spartina marshes

  • Schmalzer P
  • Hinkle C
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We examined soil changes in the 0-5 and 5-15 cm layers for one year after a fire in burned Juncus roemerianus and Spartina bakeri marshes and an unburned Juncus marsh. Each marsh was sampled (N = 25) preburn, immediately postburn, and 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months postburn. All marshes were flooded at the time of the fire; water levels declined below the surface by 6 months but reflooded at 12 months after the fire. Soil samples were analyzed for pH, conductivity, organic matter, exchangeable Ca, Mg, and K, available PO4-P, total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN), exchangeable NO3-N, NO2-N, and NH4-N. Changes due to burning were most pronounced in the surface (0-5 cm) layer. Soil pH increased 0.16-0.28 units immediately postburn but returned to preburn levels in 1 month. Organic matter increased by 1 month and remained elevated through 9 months after the fire. Calcium, Mg, K, and PO4-P all increased by 1 month after burning, and the increases persisted for 6 to 12 months. Conductivity increased in association with these cations. Burning released ions from organic matter as indicated by the increase in pH, conductivity, Ca, Mg, K, and PO4-P. NH4-N in burned marshes was elevated 6 months and NO3-N 12 months after burning. TKN showed seasonal variations but no clear fire-related changes. Nitrogen species were affected by the seasonally varying water levels as well as fire; these changes differed from those observed in many upland systems.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Juncus roemerianus
  • Spartina bakeri
  • fire
  • marshes
  • nutrients
  • soil

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  • Paul A. Schmalzer

  • C. Ross Hinkle

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