Date of this Version
Published in Journal of Environmental Quality 44 (2015), pp 903–909.
PubMed ID: 26024270
Patch burning can be a potential management tool to create grassland heterogeneity and enhance forage productivity and plant biodiversity, but its impacts on soil and environment have not been widely documented. In summer 2013, we studied the effect of time after patch burning (4 mo after burning [recently burned patches], 16 mo after burning [older burned patches], and unburned patches [control]) on vegetative cover, water erosion, and soil properties on a patch-burn experiment established in 2011 on a Yutan silty clay loam near Mead, NE. The recently burned patches had 29 ± 8.0% (mean ± SD) more bare ground, 21 ± 1.4% less canopy cover, and 40 ± 11% less litter cover than older burned and unburned patches. Bare ground and canopy cover did not differ between the older burned and unburned patches, indicating that vegetation recovered. Runoff depth from the older burned and recently burned patches was 2.8 times (19.6 ± 4.1 vs. 7.1 ± 3.0 mm [mean ± SD]) greater than the unburned patches. The recently burned patches had 4.5 times greater sediment loss (293 ± 89 vs. 65 ± 56 g m-2) and 3.8 times greater sediment-associated organic C loss (9.2 ± 2.0 vs. 2.4 ± 1.9 g m-2) than the older burned and unburned patches. The recently burned patches had increased daytime soil temperature but no differences in soil compaction and structural properties, dissolved nutrients, soil C, and total N concentration relative to older burned and unburned patches. Overall, recently burned patches can have reduced canopy and litter cover and increased water erosion, but soil properties may not differ from older burn or unburned patches under the conditions of this study.