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Fire Ecology, 2015
Volume 11, Issue 1

The Effects of Ash and Black Carbon (Biochar) on Germination of Different Tree Species
Authors: Otilia Reyes, Joeri Kaal, Diego Arán, Raquel Gago, Javier Bernal, Juan García-Duro, and Margarita Basanta
Pages: 119-133
DOI: 10.4996/fireecology.1101119

Forest fires generate large amounts of ash and biochar, or black carbon (BC), that cover the soil surface, interacting with the soil’s constituents and its seedbank.  This study concerns reproductive ecology assessments supported by molecular characterisation to improve our understanding of the effects of fire and fire residues on the germination behaviour of 12 arboreal species with a wide geographic distribution.  For this purpose, we analysed the effects of three ash and one BC concentration on the germination of Acacia dealbata Link, A. longifolia (Andrews) Willd., A. mearnsii De Wild., A. melanoxylon R. Br., Pinus nigra Arnold, P. pinaster Aiton, P. radiata D. Don, P. sylvestris L., Quercus ilex L., Q. pyrenaica Willd., Q. robur L., and Q. rubra L.  Each tree species was exposed to ash and BC created from its foliage or twigs (except for Q. rubra, which was exposed to ash and BC of Ulex europaeus L.).  We monitored germination percentage, the T50 parameter, and tracked the development of germination over time (up to 1 yr).  The BC of A. dealbata, P. pinaster, and Q. robur was analysed by pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (PY-GC-MS) to assess the molecular composition.  In six species, ash inhibited the germination, while in another five species, germination was not affected by ash or by BC.  In Q. rubra, ash and BC stimulated its germination.  This stimulating effect of the BC on Q. rubra is likely to be related to the chemical composition of the ash and BC obtained from Ulex feedstock.  The BC of U. europaeus has a very different molecular composition than the other BC samples analysed, which, together with other factors, probably allowed for its germination stimulating effects.

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