Post-Fire response of botanical and microbial communities in the succulent Karoo
Fire as a form of disturbance is unique in the way it impacts upon the environment, acting like a herbivore with a ubiquitous appetite. Consuming both dead and living material, converting complex organic molecules into organic and mineral products, which return to the soil. The role of disturbance has long been considered a driver of diversity within Mediterranean type ecosystems. Recently the interest in soil microbes has been piqued, as the importance thereof has been emphasised, particularly their role in nutrient cycling and the chelation of essential plant nutrients. The occurrence of fire results in several environmental and ecological impacts on soil, as well as the dynamics of the microbial populations present. This study explores the impact of fire as a disturbance on the plant and bulk soil microbial communities of the Succulent Karoo. This was achieved through two sub-studies, in which three different states were studied: unburnt, 7-year and 2-year post-fire. Today microbial profiles are also used as indicators of disturbance, thus many techniques exploring microbial community composition are available.