Contact: Yasmeen Sands
USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station
Caption: New research conducted by PNW Research Station scientists and their colleagues on the 2002 Biscuit Fire is the first to document the toll of wildfire on forest soils -- namely, the loss of significant amounts of carbon and nitrogen and 1 full inch of the upper soil layer. The work also raises an intriguing question: might the missing fine soil have been transported away in the fire's massive smoke plume, such as the one seen in this satellite image from July 29, 2002? Large plumes of smoke, some more than 900 miles long, were visible most days during the months-long fire, and scientists know that smoke contains fine mineral-soil particles as well as partially burned organic matter. The possibility that a substantial mass of mineral-soil particles was transported high into the atmosphere raises new questions about the effects of intense fire on radiation interception and offsite land and ocean fertilization.
Credit: Image courtesy of MODIS
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Related news release: When it comes to forest soil, wildfires pack 1-2 punch