SOM dynamics in fire prone landscapes

Dr Jennifer Soong1

1Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Abstract:

The occurrence of wildfires is increasing globally, yet their impact on SOM dynamics is not very well understood. The impact of fires on SOM can vary greatly with ecosystem type, fuel load condition and fire severity. Although fires combust and remove biomass from ecosystems, they also transform the litter layer, top soil and plant material leaving behind pyrogenic organic matter residues. Pyrogenic organic matter has chemical and structural properties that impedes decomposition by biota but also retains nutrients and impacts hydrology in the soil. Surface litter and pyrogenic organic matter also have very different decomposition pathways to SOM formation, which can help to explain the impact of frequent burning on soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics. I will present an overview of how the study of SOM characteristics and dynamics in fire-prone landscapes has evolved rapidly in recent years and discuss the upcoming needs and opportunities for SOM researchers to inform better management and planning for the future in fire-prone landscapes.

Biography:

Jennifer Soong is a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She earned her PhD in Ecology from Colorado State University and her B.A. from Oberlin College. Dr. Soong’s research focuses on biogeochemistry and ecosystem ecology with an emphasis on how terrestrial ecosystems function under natural and human-influenced environmental conditions. She conducts observational and experimental studies in field and laboratory across a broad range of ecosystem types, using techniques such as stable isotope probing, molecular techniques and modeling to quantify how organic and inorganic materials are transported and transformed as they move through plant-soil-microbial-atmospheric interfaces. Dr. Soong works closely with modelers to scale new mechanistic insights to ecosystem and global scales and help improve predictions of future ecosystem functioning.

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