The frequency and severity of wildfire in western conifer forests is expected to increase with continued climate change induced warming and drying. The effects of wildfire on carbon cycle processes, and particularly surface soil organic matter composition and post fire erosive redistribution is poorly understood. The recent Thompson Ridge wildfire event in 2013 in the Valles Caldera, part of the Jemez-Catalina Critical Zone Observatory, provides the opportunity to track post-fire changes in surface soil organic matter composition over time relative to pre-fire conditions. Here we applied thermal analyses to quantify changes in surface soil organic matter composition, with a focus on charred materials, across a range of hillslope and convergent landscape positions. It was hypothesized that the fraction of charred material would increase post-burn in all surface soils, with a subsequent decline in hillslope positions and a gain in convergent positions as surface material was eroded and deposited in water gathering portions of the landscape. Our results confirmed that charcoal increased directly after the fire in all samples, but a clear signal of erosive redistribution was not observed, suggesting that the movement of charcoal throughout a landscape is more complex than the simple hypothesis put forward here. Future work will expand the spatial distribution of samples in a systematic fashion that better captures variation in topography and erosive versus depositional areas of the landscape.
Kuklewicz K. and Rasmussen C. (2014): Quantifying Soil Organic Carbon Redistribution after Forest Fire using Thermal Analyses, Valles Caldera, New Mexico. Abstract B13N-0065 presented at 2014 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 15-19 Dec. .
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.