Methods for evaluating the impact of fires within tropical forests are needed as fires become more frequent and human populations and demands on forests increase. Short- and long-term fire effects on soils are determined by the prefire, fire, and postfire environments. We placed these components within a fire-disturbance continuum to guide our literature synthesis and develop an integrated soil burn severity index. The soil burn severity index provides a set of indicators that reflect the range of conditions present after a fire. The index consists of seven levels, an unburned level and six other levels that describe a range of postfire soil conditions. We view this index as a tool for understanding the effects of fires on the forest floor, with the realization that as new information is gained, the index may be modified as warranted. ?? Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2008.