Short-term effects of fire on soil and plant nutrients in palmetto flatwoods

Jennifer Lynn Schafer, Michelle C. Mack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Fire may have different effects on the relative availability of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) because N volatilization occurs at lower temperatures than P volatilization, and fire-mediated changes in soil nutrient availability may affect foliar nutrient concentrations. We assessed the short-term effects of fire on soil and plant nutrients and 15N isotopic signatures in a palmetto flatwoods ecosystem in central Florida. Fire caused a short-term increase in extractable ammonium (NH4+) and phosphate (PO43-). The increase in PO43- was greater than the increase in NH4+, resulting in a decrease in the soil extractable N:P ratio shortly after fire. Similarly, foliar %P of the palmetto Serenoa repens (W. Bartram) Small increased more than foliar %N, resulting in a decrease in foliar N:P ratios shortly after fire. Soil δ15N and the difference between foliar and soil δ15N did not vary with time since fire; however, foliar δ15N of S. repens decreased after fire. Foliar %N of Quercus geminata Small and ericaceous shrubs was positively correlated with soil extractable inorganic N, while foliar %P of S. repens was positively correlated with soil extractable PO43-. Variation in foliar δ15N after fire and the positive relationship between soil and foliar nutrients suggest that both increased soil nutrient availability and reallocation of nutrients from below- to aboveground can be important for plant nutrient status after fire in palmetto flatwoods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-447
Number of pages15
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Ericaceae
  • Florida
  • N:P ratios
  • Quercus geminata
  • Serenoa repens
  • δN

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


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