Researchers test soil’s recovery after fire
“At the end of the day, we want the results of our research to be useful and practical for land managers,” UWA research assistant professor Miriam MunozRojas said.
“The indicators we recorded will give practitioners a reference point for comparison.
“They can then consider whether the soils they are restoring need any amendments to improve soil quality and functionality.”
The researchers found a single indicator insufficient to understand the post-fire response and condition of soils, rather a combination of indicators was required.
“We found that microbial indicators — such as the proportion of fungi to bacteria — are very useful indicators of post-fire recovery,” Dr Munoz-Rojas said.
To measure microbial activity, researchers used the one-day carbon dioxide (Solvita) test, a relatively new method that provides faster and more effective results than traditional methodologies.
While the test has been widely used in the US, its use in Australia and for restoration-related projects is relatively new.
Although the study’s findings relate to the semi-arid soils of the Pilbara region, the methodology — including the use of the Solvita test — could be applied to other regions and ecosystems.
The study forms part of a larger project called the Restoration Seedbank Initiative, a partnership between UWA, BHP Billiton Iron Ore, and Kings Park and Botanic Garden, which will run until 2017.
The first year of soil recovery after fire is critical.