Current issue: 56(2)
Under compilation: 56(3)
We studied the spatial decomposition rates of standardised organic substrates in soils (burned boreal pine-dominated sub-xeric forests in eastern Finland), with respect to charred and non-charred coarse woody debris (CWD). Decomposition rates of rooibos plant litter inside teabags (C:N = 42.870 ± 1.841) and pressed-sheet Nordic hardwood pulp (consisting of mainly alpha-cellulose) were measured at 0.2 m distance from 20 charred (LC0.2) and 40 non-charred logs (LNC0.2). We also measured decomposition at 60 plots located 3–10 m away from downed logs (L3,10). The rooibos decomposition rate constant ‘k’ was 8.4% greater at the LNC0.2 logs than at the L3,10 or LC0.2 logs. Cellulose decomposed more completely in 1 micron mesh bags at LNC0.2 (44% of buried bags had leftover material) than at LC0.2 (76%) or L3,10 (70%). Decomposition of cellulose material was rapid but varied greatly between sampling plots. Our results indicate that decomposition of the standardised organic matter was more rapid close to CWD pieces than further away. However, only the plots located near non-charred logs (LNC0.2) exhibited high decomposition rates, with no corresponding increase observed at the charred logs (LC0.2). This suggests a possible noteworthy indirect effect of forest burning on soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition rates close to charred CWD after forest fires. We urge for more studies on this tentative observation as it may affect the estimates on how fires affect carbon cycling in forests.