• Open Access

Aboveground plant biomass, carbon, and nitrogen dynamics before and after burning in a seminatural grassland of Miscanthus sinensis in Kumamoto, Japan

Authors


J. Ryan Stewart, tel. +1 217 265 5461, fax +1 217 244 3469, e-mail: rstewart@illinois.edu

Abstract

Although fire has been used for several thousand years to maintain Miscanthus sinensis grasslands in Japan, there is little information about the nutrient dynamics in these ecosystems immediately after burning. We investigated the loss of aboveground biomass; carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) dynamics; surface soil C change before and after burning; and carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) fluxes 2 h after burning in a M. sinensis grassland in Kumamoto, Japan. We calculated average C and N accumulation rates within the soil profile over the past 7300 years, which were 58.0 kg C ha−1 yr−1 and 2.60 kg N ha−1 yr−1, respectively. After burning, 98% of aboveground biomass and litter were consumed. Carbon remaining on the field, however, was 102 kg C ha−1. We found at least 43% of C was possibly lost due to decomposition. However, remaining C, which contained ash and charcoal, appeared to contribute to C accumulation in soil. There was no difference in the amount of 0–5 cm surface soil C before and after burning. The amount of remaining litter on the soil surface indicated burning appeared not to have caused a reduction in soil C nor did it negatively impact the sub-surface vegetative crown of M. sinensis. Also, nearly 50 kg N ha−1 of total aboveground biomass and litter N was lost due to burning. Compared with before the burning event, postburning CO2 and CH4 fluxes from soil appeared not to be directly affected by burning. However, it appears the short time span of measurements of N2O flux after burning sufficiently characterized the pattern of increasing N2O fluxes immediately after burning. These findings indicate burning did not cause significant reductions in soil C nor did it result in elevated CO2 and CH4 emissions from the soil relative to before the burning event.

Ancillary