Burning of vegetation is used to remove stubble from cropping soils or in grasslands to improve the quality of rough pastures such as savannah grasslands where it eliminates woody plants and inedible dry vegetation. In addition, many wildfires occour throughout Australia in the summer months which burn whole forests. The adverse effects of fire are generally restricted to litter dwellers and true soil species are little affected. However, repeated burning of crop residues or forests depletes the soil of organic matter and biological activity falls as the food supply to soil biota is reduced.

Regrowth after fire in semi-arid Australia.

Effects of fire on soil biota:

  • Litter dwelling organisms die
  • True soil dwellers are little affected in uncultivated soils
  • Some large invertebrates can survive fires by sheltering under rocks
  • Soil microbes increase after fire due to “liming effects” of wood ash.

Aftermath of fire in Snowgums in Snowy Mountains. Did the termites survive?