Impact of wildfire intensity and logging on fungal and nitrogen-cycling bacterial communities in British Columbia forest soils

Nabla Kennedy, Keith N. Egger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Wildfire and logging are common disturbances in the forests of northwestern North America, causing changes in soil chemistry and microbiology, including fungal and nitrogen-cycling bacterial communities. These organisms play key roles in nutrient cycling, and affect the regeneration of tree seedlings after disturbance. We studied the effects of wildfire and logging on fungal and nitrogen-cycling communities in the rhizosphere of 16 month-old Douglas-fir seedlings as they regenerated in burned and logged soils. Seeds were planted against root windows that were set up vertically in the soil, with a removable front panel used to access the seedling rhizosphere soil surface. Windows were established in control, lightly burned, and severely burned plots, as well as two types of logged plots (clearcut and screefed clearcut). Soil scrapings from the root window–soil interface were taken and the structure of fungal and nitrogen-cycling communities was resolved using length-heterogeneity PCR (LH-PCR) of fungal nuclear ribosomal RNA genes, and terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis of nifH and nosZ genes. We found striking differences in the community structure of fungal, denitrifying, and N-fixing communities in response to burning and logging. With the exception of clearcut and screefed clearcut, which were generally similar, each treatment had a unique impact on community structure for these genes. Burning and logging also impacted the relative richness and evenness of these communities. Fungal relative richness and evenness increased in response to logging and severe burning, while denitrifier relative richness and evenness increased in all disturbance treatments, and N-fixing bacterial relative richness and evenness decreased in response to burning. The greatest differences in microbial community structure, relative richness, and evenness were found in the comparisons of lightly burned and logged treatments. The results suggest that the presence of an intact forest floor influences soil microbial communities less than the presence of living trees.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-794
Number of pages8
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Fire
  • Fungi
  • Logging
  • NifH
  • NosZ
  • T-RFLP


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