Post-wildfire moss colonisation and soil functional enhancement in forests of the southwestern USA

Henry S. Grover, Matthew A. Bowker, Peter Z. Fulé, Kyle D. Doherty, Carolyn H. Sieg, Anita J. Antoninka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Fire mosses, including Ceratodon purpureus, Funaria hygrometrica and Bryum argenteum, can achieve high cover within months to years after high-severity fire, but do so heterogeneously across space and time. We conducted a survey of moss cover and erosion-related functions after 10 wildfires in Pinus ponderosa and mixed-conifer forests of the southwestern USA. We sampled 65 plots in high-severity patches, stratifying by elevation and insolation over each fire. Using three landscape-scale predictor variables and one temporal predictor, we explained 37% of the variance in fire moss cover using a random forest model. The predictors in order of importance were: Equinox insolation (sunlight/day), pre-fire vegetation type, pre-fire soil organic carbon and time since fire. Within each plot we examined differences between bare and moss-covered soil surface microsites and found moss-covered microsites had a mean increase of 55% water infiltration, 106% shear strength, 162% compressive strength and 195% aggregate stability. We tested a suite of nutrients, finding 35% less manganese in the moss-covered soil. This research demonstrated that post-fire colonisation by moss is predictable and that colonisation improves soil surface erosion resistance and hydrological function, with implications for managing severely burned landscapes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020

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Keywords

  • Bryum argenteum
  • Ceratodon purpureus
  • Funaria hygrometrica
  • mixed-conifer forest
  • ponderosa pine forest
  • post fire
  • soil erosion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology

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