Belowground community responses to fire: meta-analysis reveals contrasting responses of soil microorganisms and mesofauna
18 September 2018Pressler, Yamina; Moore, John; Cotrufo, M. Francesca
Global fire regimes are shifting due to climate and land use changes. Understanding the responses of belowground communities to fire is key to predicting changes in the ecosystem processes they regulate. We conducted a comprehensive meta-analysis of 1634 observations from 131 empirical studies to investigate the effect of fire on soil microorganisms and mesofauna. Fire had a strong negative effect on soil biota biomass, abundance, richness, evenness, and diversity. Fire reduced microorganism biomass and abundance by up to 96%. Bacteria were more resistant to fire than fungi. Fire reduced nematode abundance by 88% but had no significant effect on soil arthropods. Fire reduced richness, evenness and diversity of soil microorganisms and mesofauna by up to 99%. We found little evidence of temporal trends towards recovery within 10 years post-disturbance suggesting little resilience of the soil community to fire. Interactions between biome, fire type, and depth explained few of these negative trends. Future research at the intersection of fire ecology and soil biology should aim to integrate soil community structure with the ecosystem processes they mediate under changing global fire regimes.