Trace Metal Distribution and Mobility in Soils after Silvicultural Thinning and Burning

  •  Ngowari Jaja    
  •  Monday Mbila    
  •  Yong Wang    


Silvicultural thinning and burning are common management practices that are widely used to address ecosystem problems such as tree stocking and general forest health. However, high-severity fire has variable effects on soils, resulting in damages which are directly or indirectly reflected on the trace metal chemistry of the soil. This study was conducted to evaluate the trace metal variation at the Bankhead National Forest in Northern Alabama following the silvicultural thinning and burning. The experimental site had treatments consisting of two burning patterns and three levels of thinning as part of an overall treatment of three burning patterns and three levels of thinning applied to nine treatment plots to fit a completely randomized block design experiment. Four treatments sites were used for this study and samples were collected from soil profile pits excavated at representative plots within each treatment. The samples were analyzed for trace metals-As, Cu, Ni, Zn and Pb-using Perkin Elmer 2100 ICP-OES. Post treatment samples indicated that the trace metal concentrations generally decreased with soil depth. Copper, Ni, and Zn at the Pre-burn site gradually increased with depth to a maximum concentration at about 50 cm below the soil surface. Arsenic in the surface horizons increased by 156% in the burn-only sites, 54% in the thin-only treatment, 30% for the burn and thin treatments. Such differences were unlikely due to differences in the geochemistry of the parent material, but likely due to anthropogenic activities and possibly the forest management practices in question.

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