Throughout the intermountain western U.S., both the number and extent of highintensity wildfires are increasing (Westerling et al. 2006; Westerling 2016; Abatzaglou & Williams 2017). In Montana alone, wildfires consumed more than 1 million acres in 2017, and these trends are projected to continue (USDA 2017). High-intensity fire not only consumes vegetation, but also depletes much of the nutrient capital needed for recovering forests to regenerate. The majority of temperate forests are most strongly limited by nitrogen (N) availability (LeBauer & Treseder 2008), meaning that even when undisturbed, tree growth is often suppressed by insufficient quantities of N. During fire, plant biomass, litter, and soil organic matter are combusted, volatilizing N, and often leaving these ecosystems with extremely low quantities of a critical plant nutrient (Maynard et al. 2014).
© 2019 Cory C. Cleveland
Cleveland, Cory C., "Nitrogen (N) dynamics in a post-fire landscape: A search for the missing N source" (2019). University Grant Program Reports. 54.