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Soil Chemistry

Table of Contents
Soil Background Methodology Raw Data
(All data compiled) (Conifers removed from Aspen Stands in Bulls Prairie) Dense stands slash busted then burned to reduce fuel load and mistletoe in Cox Flat Harvest and Non Harvest Comparisons
(Thomas, Grizzly, Winter, South Warner, Grassy, Toolbox Complex)

Aspen Treatments Slash Bust Treatments Wildfire Controlled burn

State line under burn Young juniper cut to release H2O and return sites to historical conditions
(40% Juniper burned 60% left lying) Chewaucan / Morster Springs / Ben Young

Juniper Treatments

Dense Closed Stands (PinPon)

(Auger Creek ABE Timber Sale)

Cava Timber Sale

Open Stands (PinPon/JunOcc) Soil Protocols

Soil Background: Ammonia-Nitrogen (NH4+1)

A fertile soil may be expected to give a low ammonia nitrogen test reading unless there has been a recent application of nitrogenous fertilizer in forms other than the nitrate. The rapid disappearance of ammonia after fertilizer application indicates the desired transformation of the ammonia to the more available nitrate compounds. In forest soils, ammonia is the most abundant available form of nitrogen. If there is a satisfactory rate of nitrogen transformation, the humus layers of a forest soil will produce very high concentrations of ammonia nitrogen.

Soil Background: Nitrate-Nitrogen (NO3-1)

Nitrogen is a component of the chlorophyll (green color) in plants, thus giving plants the rich green color characteristics of a healthy plant. Nitrogen promotes succulence in forage crops and leafy vegetables. When used at the recommended rates, nitrogen improves the quality of leaf crops. It also simulates the utilization of phosphorous, potassium and other essential nutrient elements. The above-ground growth of plants is enhanced with nitrogen. Nitrogen hastens crop maturity (assuming all other nutrients are adequately supplied and excessive nitrogen rates are not applied). Nitrogen is very influential in fruit sizing.

Soil Background: Nitrite-Nitrogen (NO2-1)

Nitrites are formed as an intermediate step in the production of nitrate. Soils that are well drained and aerated contain only small amounts of nitrite nitrogen. Excessive nitrites, which are toxic to plants, may result from soil conditions unfavorable to the formation of nitrate, such as inadequate aeration. High nitrite readings may also be encountered in soils with large amounts of nitrates, where a portion of the nitrate nitrogen decomposes to form nitrites.

Soil Background Information: Phosphate (PO4-3)

Phosphorus is necessary for the hardy growth of the plant and activity of the cells. It encourages root development, and by hastening the maturity of the plant, it increases the ratio of grain to straw, as well at the total yield. It plays an important part in increasing the palatability of plants and simulates the formation of fats, convertible, starches, and healthy seed. By stimulating rapid cells development in the plant, phosphorus naturally increases the resistance to disease. An excess of phosphorus does not cause the harmful effect of excessive nitrogen and has an important balancing effect upon the plant.

Soil Background Information: Potassium (K+1)

Potassium Potassium is not a component of the structural makeup of plants, yet it plays a vital role in the physiological and biochemical functions of plants. The exact function of potassium in plants is not clearly understood, but many beneficial factors, implicating the involvement and necessity of potassium in plant nutrition have been demonstrated. Some of these factors are: it enhances disease resistance by strengthening stalks and stems; activated various enzyme systems within plants; contributes to a thicker cuticle (waxy layer) which guards against disease and water loss; controls the turgor pressure within plants to prevent wilting; enhances fruit size, flavor, texture and development and is involved in the production of amino acids (the building blocks for protein), chlorophyll formation (green-color), starch formation and sugar transport from leaves to roots

Soil Background Information and Chemistry Testing Methodology Methods Beginning in 2006, Soils were analyzed for soil chemistry using LaMotte Smart 2 Soil Spectrophotometer/ Colorimeter. Protocols developed by LaMotte for Soil Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite, Phosphate and Potassium were used. All concentrations are recorded in parts per million and milligrams per liter (ppm, mg/L).

Aspen Stand Soil Chemistry

Implications of conifer removal
Soil Nitrogen Chem istry in Aspen Stands 2.00 1.80 1.60 1.40 1.20 1.00 0.80 0.60 0.40 0.20 0.00

Soil Chemistry in Aspen Stands

Concentration (ppm, mg/L)

Concentration (ppm, mg/L)

5.00 4.00 3.00 2.00 1.00 0.02 0.11 0.04 0.00 PO4 K 2.70 4.70 Conifer removed 3.53 Outside Stand Mixed aspen / conifer

1.49 1.29

Conifer removed Outside Stand

0.86 0.70 0.55 0.36 0.63 0.10 0.11

Mixed aspen / conifer




Ammonia appears to increase significantly during first year in aspen stands when conifers removed. Nitrites also increase significantly probably due to the conversion of ammonia to nitrites in the process of becoming nitrates. Potassium increases are barely significant (a=.05) Other differences are statistically insignificant
Based on 16 comparative samples

The Effect of Slashbusting followed by burning on Soil Chemistry

Com parision of Nitrogen Chem istry in Slash Bust Treatm ents

Concentration (ppm, mg/L)

Burning appears to increase ammonia and nitrate significantly Burning appears to decrease potassium though barely significant (a=.043) Control and slashbusted sites are not statistically different
Based on 30 comparative samples


Concentration (ppm, mg/L)

2.50 2.00


Non Slash Bust 1.50 1.11 1.00 0.86 0.50 0.00 NH4-N NO3-N 0.68 0.32 Slash Bust SB Burn

0.53 0.02 0.00 0.03


Com parision of Soil Chem istry in Slash Bust Treatm ents 20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 PO4 K 0.58 1.77 0.75 10.4 7.8 Non Slash Bust Slash Bust SB Burn 14.4

Soil Chemistry following Wildfire and Harvest

(on average 24 trees per acre were harvested)
Comparison of Soil Chemistry by Treatment (harvest vs non-harvest) post Toolbox Complex Wildfire
0.6 0.5 0.47 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0 NH4-N NO3-N 0.13 0.03 0.06 0.22 0.4 Harvest Non Harvest

Comparison of Soil Chemistry by Treatment (harvest vs non-harvest) post Toolbox Complex Wildfire
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 PO4 K 5.13 7.17 6.3 7.61 Harvest Non Harvest

Concentration (ppm)


Though no nutrient levels went up following harvest, ANOVA tests indicate that there were no statistically significant differences between harvested and nonharvested wildfire sites in the Toolbox Complex. The most significant was nitrate with an alpha value of .055
Results based on 27 comparable samples

Concentration (ppm)

Comparison of Juniper Treatments on Soil Chemistry

Comparison of Soil Nitroten Chemistry in Juniper Treatments
Concentration (ppm, mg/L)
2.5 2.0 1.5 1.11 1.0 0.5 0.0 NH4-N NO3-N NO2-N 0.97 0.94 0.82 0.49 0.29 0.34 0.25 0.23 0.29 0.07 1.77 Burn Cut Live Open

Comparison of Soil Chemistry by Juniper Treatment Options


Concentration (ppm, mg/L)

8.0 7.0 6.0 5.0 4.0 3.0 2.0 1.0 0.0 PO4
1.64 0.60 1.87 1.79


6.72 6.12


Burn Cut Live Open

Nitrates increase significantly compared to all other treatments when juniper is burned. Phosphates decrease significantly when juniper is cut. All other values are statistically insignificant.
Based on 73 comparative samples

Role of Woody Debris in Soil Chemistry

Com parisons of Nitrogen Concentrations in Dense Forests 1.2

Com parisons of Nitrogen Concentrations in Dense Forests


Concentration (ppm, mg/L)

Concentration (ppm, mg/L)

1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 NH4-N NO3-N 0.07 0 0.00 0.70 Under Duff Exposed Under DWD 0.40 0.38 0.42 0.35

3 2.5 2

2.53 Under Duff 1.45 Exposed Under DWD 1.15


1.5 1 0.5 0 PO4 0.14 0 0


The small number of comparative samples rends all data statistically insignificantly It does appear that there may be a strong correlation between thatched duff / litter and nutrient cycling. It does not appear that downed woody debris plays much of a role until it is in later stages of decomposition.
Results are based on 9 comparative samples

LaMotte Chemical Protocols



LaMotte Code





Cadmium Reduction






Ascorbic Acid Reduction