Application of scanning calorimetry to estimate soil organic matter loss after fires

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2 Scopus citations


The severe heating of soil during wildfires and prescribed burns may result in adverse effects on soil fertility due to organic matter loss. No rapid and reliable procedure exists to evaluate soil organic matter (SOM) losses due to heating. Enthalpy of SOM combustion correlates with organic matter content. Quartz is a ubiquitous mineral in soils and has a remarkably constant composition and reversible α-β phase transition at 575 °C. We suggest that SOM content in heated and unheated soils can be compared using the ratio of SOM combustion enthalpy on heating to the β-α quartz transition enthalpy measured on cooling of the same sample. This eliminates the need to dry and weigh the samples, making possible field applications of the proposed method. The feasibility of using the (ΔH comb SOM)/(ΔH β-α Qz) ratio was established with experiments on soil samples heated in the laboratory and the method was then used for evaluation of SOM loss on two pile burn sites at UC Berkeley's Blodgett Forest Research Station in Georgetown, California.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-356
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Fires
  • Organic carbon
  • Scanning calorimetry
  • Soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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