Comparison of the mineralogical effects of an experimental forest fire on a goethite/ferrihydrite soil with a topsoil that contains hematite, maghemite and goethite
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A long-standing unresolved puzzle related to the Danish temperate humid climate is the presence of extended areas with large Fe contents, where goethite and ferrihydrite are present in the topsoil along with hematite and maghemite. Hematite and, particularly, maghemite would normally be interpreted as the result of high temperature as found after forest fires. However, a body of evidence argues against these sites having been exposed to fire. In an attempt to get closer to an explanation of this Fe mineralogy, an experimental forest fire was produced. The results showed a clear mineralogical zonation down to 10 cm depth. This was not observed at the natural sites, which contained a mixture of goethite/ferrihydrite, hematite and maghemite down to 20 cm depth. The experimental forest fire left charcoal and ashes at the topsoil, produced high pH and decreased organic matter content, all of which is in contrast to the natural sites. The conclusion from this work is that the mineralogy of these sites is not consistent with exposure to forest fire, but may instead result from long-term transformation in a reducing environment, possibly involving microbiology.