Date of Award

Summer 6-26-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Science

First Advisor

Christine Mutiti

Second Advisor

Bruce Snyder

Third Advisor

Samuel Mutiti


Human activities have drastically altered natural fire regimes in countless ecosystems by suppressing and/or effectuating fires. In the past, management strategies were formulated to eliminate the occurrence of fire altogether but as we have become more aware of the benefits of fires such as reducing the amount of fuel build-up, recycling of nutrients for healthier plant communities and the promotion of biodiversity, prescribed burns are now considered an integral part of forest management. While many studies have explored the benefits of fires on plant communities, very few studies look at the impacts of fire on soil characteristics. Sapelo Island, which is located off the coast of Georgia, USA experiences both prescribed fires and natural wildfires. The goal of this study was to investigate the impact of different fires on soil characteristics. We hypothesized that soil from areas impacted by wildfires would have significantly different soil characteristics, especially when compared with soils from the prescribed fire areas or soils from areas not affected by the same fires. Four sites were chosen for sampling, two prescribed and two natural wildfire sites. Soil samples were collected at each site from burned and nearby unburned areas. Soils were analyzed for pH, extractable minerals including P, K, Ca, Mg, Zn, Mn, Cu, B, and Na (all measured in ppm), soil texture, and organic matter. Results suggest that prescribed fires do not cause significant changes in soil characteristics and can overall be beneficial whereas some wildfires are likely to negatively affect soil characteristics.