The Effect of Different Fire Regimes on Soil Properties in Wet Miombo woodlands of Zambia

Weston Sakala, Felix Chileshe, Royd Vinya


Miombo woodlands occur on nutrient poor soils and generally experience a warm-to-hot climate with a dry cold season. Wet miombo areas, which receives more than 1,000 mm of average annual rainfall, are distinguished from dry miombo areas receiving less than 1,000 mm of average annual rainfall. Wet miombo woodland occurs over much of eastern Angola, northern Zambia, south western Tanzania and central Malawi in areas receiving more than 1000 mm rainfall per year. Canopy height is usually greater than 15 m, reflecting the generally deeper and moister soils which create favourable conditions for growth. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of different fire regimes on soil properties in wet Miombo woodlands of Zambia. The study was conducted in Mwekera burning plots located in Mwekera National Forest No. 6 on the outskirts of Kitwe City. This study has uncovered some interesting relationships between fire and soil nutrients, soil chemical and physical properties. The complete fire protected treatment had significantly greater soil bulky density, organic soil carbon, phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) than other treatments. The late burning treatment had significantly greater soil pH, soil electrical conductivity, Calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) than other treatments; however, a loss of soil organic matter during late burning fires likely resulted in increased bulk density and strength, and decreased water infiltration rates. Late burning fires also significantly increased soil pH, concentrations of extractable calcium, magnesium and carbon although to a lesser degree than early burning. Early burning fires did not lower soil potassium contents or alter soil chemical and physical properties. Our results indicate that despite differences in fire regimes, soil moisture, calcium and magnesium contents were not significantly different between early burning and late burning treatments. The results suggest that fire management did not affect soil moisture, calcium, and magnesium contents.

Keywords: burning plots, fire regimes, soil properties, wet miombo woodlands

DOI: 10.7176/JRDM/66-04

Publication date:June 30th 2020

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