Environmental Studies Program



Kate Nelson

Date of this Version



Environmental Studies Undergraduate Student Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2022


Copyright 2022, Kate Nelson


Globally, climate change has had an adverse effect on natural phenomena and ecosystem trends, including drastically increasing the number of wildfires that occur annually. As a result, the number of wildfires in the western United States have doubled since 1984. More specifically, ideal wildfire conditions have also prolonged the wildfire season in California. The objectives of this study were to determine if wildfires had an effect on soil quality and determine if wildfires and prescribed fires had different impacts on soil quality in northern California. A literature review was conducted to address the knowledge gaps and understand the perceived changes in soil quality due to wildfires and prescribed fires found in previous studies. A meta-data analysis of soil sample data and wildfire and prescribed fire data was conducted to find any differences in soil quality before and after both wildfires or prescribed fires occurred. Next, the soil sample data was analyzed to determine if any significant changes in soil quality differed due to the type of fire. The results of this study were deemed inconclusive because of a lack of data and other confounding variables. However, it provided insight to possible future directions and provided a baseline of understanding of why a more in-depth study on the relationship between soil quality and wildfires is needed.