Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2024


As climate change progresses, wildfires will become more common, increasing their impact on soil microbial ecosystems. This research examines how increased fire frequency affects soil microbial communities and whether effects differ for communities associated with different tree species. Soil samples were collected from under five individuals of four tree species within each of four 1-ha plots that had experienced fire from 24 to 111 years ago. Samples were analyzed for microbial DNA using next generation sequencing techniques in order to explore the influence of fire return interval and tree species on microbial diversity and community structure. Correlations were also examined between microbial species composition and soil properties such as pH, moisture, carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, and nutrient levels. The findings reveal that microbial community composition shifts significantly in response to the time since the last fire, with a marked decrease in bacterial phyla Firmicutes and Chloroflexi and an increase in Cyanobacteria and WPS-2 over time. Tree species had negligible effects on microbial communities. Soil pH was identified as a key factor influencing microbial diversity, highlighting the intricate interplay between fire, soil characteristics, and microbial life. These insights are crucial for managing fire-affected landscapes and understanding microbial community resilience to changing environmental conditions brought on by climate change.


Biological Sciences


Dr. David Karowe, Faculty Advisor

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