Huge wildfires can change soil chemistry

Better monitoring could improve reforestation

Huge, long-lasting wildfires can cause changes in soil chemistry that affect water contamination, air quality and plant growth, but researchers found these changes are poorly monitored and rarely factor into post-fire recovery efforts or risk assessments.

In a review study published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, researchers found that better techniques are needed to monitor changes in soil and surrounding ecosystems. This enhanced monitoring could inform decisions on how to treat drinking water sourced from burned areas, support reforestation and protect workers against toxins during cleanup, rebuilding or revegetation.

“A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms in soil can help explain, for instance, why drinking water from a forest fire-impacted watershed is suddenly more toxic, or why a forest is not coming back,” said Colorado State University soil chemist Thomas Borch, a senior author of the study.

Read the study in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment.

Header Image: Huge, long-lasting wildfires can cause changes in soil chemistry. Credit: Kevin