Forest cycle

Researchers at the University of Montana have demonstrated that charcoal deposited during a forest fire has the potential to stimulate the conversion of ammonia to nitrates, which they point out is an important step in the nitrogen cycle. When fire razes a forest, nitrate levels rise and the effects can be persistent. Patrick Ball and colleagues have now found that a type of bacteria that transforms ammonia into nitrates are found in greater abundance in recently burned sites, despite the fact that the “recent” fire was twelve years prior to the sampling period. The research reveals a direct link between fire, charcoal, nitrification, and nitrifying microbes in coniferous forests of the inland Northwestern US.