Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 30, pp 30325–30338 | Cite as

Effects of forest fire on the properties of soil and humic substances extracted from forest soil in Gunma, Japan

  • Kazuto Sazawa
  • Hironori Yoshida
  • Katsuya Okusu
  • Noriko Hata
  • Hideki KuramitzEmail author
Research Article


Increases in global wildfires and fire severity are expected to result from global warming. Severe wildfires not only burn surface vegetation but also affect forest soil. Humic substances play key roles in the transport of nutrients and the carbon cycle in terrestrial ecosystems. In this study, we evaluated the effects of forest fires on the chemical properties of fulvic acid (FA) and humic acid (HA) extracted from non-burned and burned forest soils in Gunma, Japan. The differential thermal analysis of FA indicated that the intensity of exothermic reaction peak at 400 °C was 2-fold higher than that from non-burned soil. Based on pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis with tetramethyl ammonium hydroxide, the amount of pyrolysate compounds in FA from burnt soil was significantly lower than that in FA from non-burnt soil. Therefore, we can conclude that the forest fire caused the significant change in the properties of FA such as increasing the aromaticity and refractory. In addition, the concentration of dissolved organic carbon with low molecular weight in surface soil increased after forest fire. This study suggests that the denaturation of soil organic matter by wildfire can affect the carbon cycle in terrestrial ecosystems.


Wildfires Soil organic matter Humic acid Fulvic acid TMAH-pyrolysis-GC/MS Three-dimensional excitation-emission matrix 


Funding information

This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B): Project Number 26740042 and the Heiwa Nakajima Foundation.


  1. Almendros G, González-Vila F (2012) Wildfires, soil carbon balance and resilient organic matter in Mediterranean ecosystems: a review. Spanish J Soil Sci 2:8–33. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Almendros G, Gonzalez-Vila FJ, Martin F (1990) Fire-induced transformation of soil organic matter from an oak forest: an experimental approach to the effects of fire on humic substances. Soil Sci 149:158–168. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Almendros G, González-Vila FJ, Martín F, Fründ R, Lüdemann H-D (1992) Solid state NMR studies of fire-induced changes in the structure of humic substances. Sci Total Environ 117–118:63–74. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Amir S, Hafidi M, Lemee L, Merlina G, Guiresse M, Pinelli E, Revel JC, Bailly JR, Ambles A (2006) Structural characterization of humic acids, extracted from sewage sludge during composting, by thermochemolysis–gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. Process Biochem 41:410–422. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arocena JM, Opio C (2003) Prescribed fire-induced changes in properties of sub-boreal forest soils. Geoderma 113:1–16. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Aznar JM, González-Pérez JA, Badía D, Marti C (2016) At what depth are the properties of a gypseous forest topsoil affected by burning? Land Degrad Develop 27:1344–1353. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Badía D, Martí C (2003) Plant ash and heat intensity effects on chemical and physical properties of two contrasting soils. Arid L Res Manag 17:23–41. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Certini G (2005) Effects of fire on properties of forest soils: a review. Oecologia 143:1–10. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Challinor JM (1995) Characterisation of wood by pyrolysis derivatisation-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. J Anal Appl Pyrolysis 35:93–107. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Coble PG, Del Castillo CE, Avril B (1998) Distribution and optical properties of CDOM in the Arabian Sea during the 1995 Southwest Monsoon. Deep Res Part II Top Stud Oceanogr 45:2195–2223. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. De la Rosa JM, González-Pérez JA, González-Vázquez R, Knicker H, López-Capel E, Manning DAC, González-Vila FJ (2008) Use of pyrolysis/GC-MS combined with thermal analysis to monitor C and N changes in soil organic matter from a Mediterranean fire affected forest. Catena 74:296–303. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Debano LF (2000) The role of fire and soil heating on water repellency in wildland environments: a review. J Hydrol 231–232:195–206. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dell’Abate MT, Benedetti A, Trinchera A, Dazzi C (2002) Humic substances along the profile of two Typic Haploxerert. Geoderma 107:281–296. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fernández I, Cabaneiro A, Carballas T (1997) Organic matter changes immediately after a wildfire in an Atlantic forest soil and comparison with laboratory soil heating. Soil Biol Biochem 29:1–11. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fernandez I, Cabaneiro A, Gonzalez-Prieto SJ (2004) Use of C-13 to monitor soil organic matter transformations caused by a simulated forest fire. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 18:435–442. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Flannigan M, Cantin AS, De Groot WJ, Wotton M, Newbery A, Gowman LM (2013) Global wildland fire season severity in the 21st century. For Ecol Manag 294:54–61. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Francioso O, Montecchio D, Gioacchini P, Ciavatta C (2005) Thermal analysis (TG-DTA) and isotopic characterization ( 13C-15N) of humic acids from different origins. Appl Geochem 20:537–544. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Francioso O, Montecchio D, Gioacchini P, Cavani L, Ciavatta C, Trubetskoj O, Trubetskaya O (2009) Structural differences of chernozem soil humic acids SEC-PAGE fractions revealed by thermal (TG-DTA) and spectroscopic (DRIFT) analyses. Geoderma 152:264–268. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fukushima M, Yamamoto M, Komai T, Yamamoto K (2009) Studies of structural alterations of humic acids from conifer bark residue during composting by pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry using tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH-py-GC/MS). J Anal Appl Pyrolysis 86:200–206. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Giovannini G, Lucchesi S (1997) Modifications induced in soil physico-chemical parameters by experimental fires at different intensities. Soil Sci 162:479–486. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. González-Pérez JA, González-Vila FJ, Almendros G, Knicker H (2004) The effect of fire on soil organic matter—a review. Environ Int 30:855–870. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hatcher PG, Nanny MA, Minard RD, Dible SD, Carson DM (1995) Comparison of two thermochemolytic methods for the analysis of lignin in decomposing gymnosperm wood: the CuO oxidation method and the method of thermochemolysis with tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH). Org Geochem 23:881–888. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hernández T, García C, Reinhardt I (1997) Short-term effect of wildfire on the chemical, biochemical and microbiological properties of Mediterranean pine forest soils. Biol Fertil Soils 25:109–116. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. IPCC (2013): Summary for policymakers. In: Climate Change 2013, The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (eds Stocker, T. F., Qin, D., Plattner G-K, Tignor M, Allen SK, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V, Midgley PM), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USAGoogle Scholar
  25. Ikeya K, Watanabe A (2003) Direct expression of an index for the degree of humification of humic acids using organic carbon concentration. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 49:47–53. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Iwai H, Fukushima M, Yamamoto M, Komai T, Kawabe Y (2013) Characterization of seawater extractable organic matter from bark compost by TMAH-py-GC/MS. J Anal Appl Pyrol 99:9–15. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jiménez-Morillo NT, de la Rosa JM, Waggoner D, Almendros G, González-Vila FJ, González-Pérez JA (2016) Fire effects in the molecular structure of soil organic matter fractions under Quercus suber cover. Catena 145:266–273. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kang BT, Sajjapongse A (1980) Effect of heating on properties of some soils from Southern Nigeria and growth of rice. Plant Soil 55:85–95. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Katsumi N, Yonebayashi K, Okazaki M (2015) Evaluation of stacking nanostructure in soil humic acids by analysis of the 002 band of their X-ray diffraction profiles. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 61:603–612. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Katsumi N, Yonebayashi K, Okazaki M (2016) Effects of heating on composition, degree of darkness, and stacking nanostructure of soil humic acids. Sci Total Environ 541:23–32. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Knicker H (2007) How does fire affect the nature and stability of soil organic nitrogen and carbon? A review. Biogeochemistry 85:91–118. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kowalczuk P, Durako MJ, Young H, Kahn AE, Cooper WJ, Gonsior M (2009) Characterization of dissolved organic matter fluorescence in the South Atlantic Bight with use of PARAFAC model: interannual variability. Mar Chem 113:182–196. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kumada K, Sato O, Ohsumi Y, Ohta S (1967) Humus composition of mountain soils in Central Japan with special reference to the distribution of P type humic acid. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 13:151–158. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Martín F, del Río JC, González-Vila FJ, Verdejo T (1995) Thermally assisted hydrolysis and alkylation of lignins in the presence of tetra-alkylammonium hydroxides. J Anal Appl Pyrolysis 35:1–13. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McDonald S, Bishop AG, Prenzler PD, Robards K (2004) Analytical chemistry of freshwater humic substances. Anal Chim Acta 527:105–124. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McKnight DM, Boyer EW, Westerhoff PK, Doran PT, Kulbe T, Andersen DT (2001) Spectrofluorometric characterization of dissolved organic matter for indication of precursor organic material and aromaticity. Limnol Oceanogr 46:38–48. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Montecchio D, Francioso O, Carletti P, Pizzeghello D, Chersich S, Previtali F, Nardi S (2006) Thermal analysis (TG-DTA) and drift spectroscopy applied to investigate the evolution of humic acids in forest soil at different vegetation stages. J Therm Anal Calorim 83:393–399. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Morisada K, Ono K, Kanomata H (2004) Organic carbon stock in forest soils in Japan. Geoderma 119:21–32. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mylonas VA, McCants CB (1980) Effects of humic and fulvic acids on growth of tobacco. Plant Soil 54:485–490. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ohno T, Amirbahman A, Bro R (2008) Parallel factor analysis of excitation-emission matrix fluorescence spectra of water soluble soil organic matter as basis for the determination of conditional metal binding parameters. Environ Sci Technol 42:186–192. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Peuravuori J, Pihlaja K (1997) Molecular size distribution and spectroscopic properties of aquatic humic substances. Anal Chim Acta 337:133–149. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Peuravuori J, Paaso N, Pihlaja K (1999) Kinetic study of the thermal degradation of lake aquatic humic matter by thermogravimetric analysis. Thermochim Acta 325:181–193. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Quénéa K, Derenne S, Largeau C, Rumpel C, Mariotti A (2005) Spectroscopic and pyrolytic features and abundance of the macromolecular refractory fraction in a sandy acid forest soil (Landes de Gascogne, France). Org Geochem 36:349–362. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Randerson JT, Liu H, Flanner MG, Chambers SD, Jin Y, Hess PG, Pfister G, Mack MC, Treseder KK, Welp LR, Chapin FS, Harden JW, Goulden ML, Lyons E, Neff JC, Schuur EAG, Zender CS (2006) The impact of boreal forest fire on climate warming. Science 314:1130–1132. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Richard C, Trubetskaya O, Trubetskoj O, Reznikova O, Afanas'eva G, Aguer J-P, Guyot G (2004) Key role of the low molecular size fraction of soil humic acids for fluorescence and photoinductive activity. Environ Sci Technol 38:2052–2057. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rodríguez J, González-Pérez JA, Turmero A, Hernández M, Ball AS, González-Vila FJ, Arias ME (2017) Wildfire effects on the microbial acitivity and diversity in a Mediterranean forest soil. Catena 158:82–88. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rodríguez J, González-Pérez JA, Turmero A, Hernández M, Ball AS, González-Vila FJ, Arias ME (2018) Physico-chemical and microbial perturbations of Andalusian pine forest soils following a wildfire. Sci Total Environ 634:650–660. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Saiz-Jimenez C (1994) Analytical pyrolysis of humic substances: pitfalls, limitations, and possible solutions. Environ Sci Technol 28:1773–1780. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Saiz-Jimenez C (1995) Reactivity of aliphatic humic moiety in analytical pyrolysis. Org Geochem 23:955–961. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Saiz-Jimenez C, De Leeuw JW (1986) Lignin pyrolysis products: their structures and their significance as biomarkers. Org Geochem 10:869–876. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sazawa K, Wakimoto T, Hata N, Taguchi S, Tanaka S, Tafu M, Kuramitz H (2013) The evaluation of forest fire severity and effect on soil organic matter based on the L*, a*, b* color reading system. Anal Methods 5:2660–2665. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stedmon CA, Markager S, Bro R (2003) Tracing dissolved organic matter in aquatic environments using a new approach to fluorescence spectroscopy. Mar Chem 82:239–254. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Stevenson FJ (1994) Humus chemistry: genesis, composition, reaction, 2nd edn. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  54. Swift RS (1996) Organic matter characterization. In: D. L. Sparks, A. L. Page, P. A. Helmke RH, Loeppert, P. N. Soltanpour, M. A. Tabatabai, C. T. Johnson MES (eds) Methods of soil analysis. Part 3. Chemical methods—SSSA book series no. 5. Soil Science Society of America Inc., Madison, pp 1011–1069Google Scholar
  55. Tinoco P, Almendros G, Sanz J, González-Vázquez R, González-Vila FJ (2006) Molecular descriptors of the effect of fire on soils under pine forest in two raucontinental Mediterranean soils. Org Geochem 37:1995–2018. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vergnoux A, Di Rocco R, Domeizel M, Guiliano M, Doumenq P, Théraulaz F (2011) Effects of forest fires on water extractable organic matter and humic substances from Mediterranean soils: UV-vis and fluorescence spectroscopy approaches. Geoderma 160:434–443. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Yustiawati KY, Sazawa K, Kuramitz H, Kurasaki M, Saito T, Hosokawa T, Suhaemi Syawal M, Wulandari L, Hendri I, Tanaka S (2015) Effects of peat fires on the characteristics of humic acid extracted from peat soil in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22:2384–2395. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Far Eastern StudiesUniversity of ToyamaToyamaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Biology and Chemistry, Graduate School of Science and Engineering for ResearchUniversity of ToyamaToyamaJapan

Personalised recommendations