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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 15(1)

Soil water dynamics after fire in a Portuguese shrubland

Joaquim S. Silva A D, Francisco C. Rego B, Stefano Mazzoleni C

A Escola Superior Agrária de Coimbra, Bencanta, 3040-316 Coimbra, Portugal.
B Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisboa, Portugal.
C Università di Napoli Federico II, Via Università 100, 80055 Portici, Napoli, Italy.
D Corresponding author. Email: jss@esac.pt
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This paper presents a study where soil water content (SW) was measured before and after an experimental fire in a shrubland dominated by Erica scoparia L. in Portugal. Two plots were established: one was kept as a control plot and the other was burned by an experimental fire in June 2001. Measurements were taken before fire (2000), and after fire (2001, 2002, and 2003) at six depths down to 170 cm, from June to December. Measurements before fire allowed comparison of the two plots in terms of the SW differential, using 2000 as a reference. Results for 2001 showed that SW decreased less during the drying season (June–September) and increased more during the wetting season (October–December) in the burned plot than in the control plot. The magnitude of these effects decreased consistently in 2002 and 2003, especially at surface layers. The maximum gain of SW for the total profile in the burned plot was estimated as 105.5 mm in 2001, 70.2 mm in 2002, and 35.6 mm in 2003. The present paper discusses the mechanisms responsible for the increase in SW taking into account the characteristics of the plant community, including the root distribution, and the results of other studies.

Keywords: fire effects; Mediterranean shrubland; soil water content.

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