In situ observations of soil minerals and organic matter in the early phases of prescribed fires

Academic Article


  • We examined the chemical composition of aerosol samples collected during a prescribed fire at a Great Basin Desert site in the context of samples collected from controlled combustion of vegetation clippings from the same site and resuspension of soil samples obtained prior to and after the burn event. We observed a distinct difference in the composition of organic carbon resuspended soil dust after the burn, reflecting changes caused by the heating of the soil. The relative abundances of minerals and organic carbon fractions in aerosols collected during the first period of the burn were identical to those measured in soil dust. For aerosol samples collected for the remaining two periods of the burn event, the profiles of both minerals and organic carbon matched quite well those observed for vegetation combustion. Reconstruction of aerosol samples collected during the burn event showed that vegetation combustion dominated emissions but mineral soil dust may account for about 10% of PM10 emissions (reconstructed) during the early stages of the fire. A large fraction of emissions during the first two hours was also unaccounted mainly because of the insufficient conversion of organic carbon to organic mass. The abundance of heavier non-volatile organics in soil dust suggested the presence of humic/fulvic acids that exhibit higher OM-to-OC ratios and thus, account for a proportion of the unaccounted emissions. These findings indicated that soil dust may be released into the air during a fire event, probably due to the enhanced turbulent mixing near the burn front. © 2012 American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
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    Author List

  • Kavouras IG; Nikolich G; Etyemezian V; Dubois DW; King J; Shafer D
  • Volume

  • 117
  • Issue

  • 12