2024 Undergraduate Research Showcase

Factors and Processes Behind Fire-Induced Carbonate Accumulation in Shrub-Steppe Ecosystem Soils

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. David Huber and Dr. Jacob F. Anderson


Climate change has driven global shifts in fire frequency and severity. Existing fire studies have explored its aboveground effects: releasing carbon dioxide and creating an atmospheric imbalance that exacerbates climate change impacts. However, recent observations of post-fire calcium carbonate (CaCO3) deposits reveal an unquantified amount of this carbon. Therefore, this study aimed to examine wildfire carbon offset potential via largely unexplored soil processes. In this study, I used soil collected before and after a prescribed fire at the Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed to explore the driving factors and processes behind fire-induced carbonate accumulation (FICA). Soils were collected from two sites on contrasting aspects, North Facing (NF) and South Facing (SF), different soil depths (0-2 and 2-5 cm), and at three burn severities. Preliminary results show post-fire increases in pH and inorganic carbon for both sites, but at a greater magnitude for SF and a positive correlation with increasing burn severity. However, carbonate isotope fractionation showed a negative correlation with increasing burn severity and carbonate concentrations, contrasting with predictions and may demonstrate calcium limitation during FICA in low-severity fires. By better understanding the complex processes behind FICA, I address knowledge gaps in dryland carbon cycling and potential for climate change mitigation.

This document is currently not available here.