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Effects of Wildfire on Soils and Watershed Processes

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Abstract:

Wildfire can cause water repellency and consume plant canopy, surface plants and litter, and structure-enhancing organics within soil. Changes in soil moisture, structure, and infiltration can accelerate surface runoff, erosion, sediment transport, and deposition. Intense rainfall and some soil and terrain conditions can contribute to overland runoff and in-channel debris torrents. Mineralization of organic matter, interruption of root uptake, and loss of shade can further impact water quality by increasing stream temperatures and nutrient concentrations. Where wildfires are unnaturally large and severe, watershed effects are likely to be negatively skewed.

Keywords: debris torrent; environmental management; erosion; fire intensity; fire severity; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; infiltration; natural resource management; natural resources; nutrients; runoff; salvage logging; sediment deposition; temperature; watershed restoration; wildfire

Document Type: Regular Article

Affiliations: 1: Principal Scientist National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. PO Box 458 Corvallis OR 97339, Email: gice@ncasi.org 2: Project Leader Watersheds and Riparian Ecosystems, USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station Southwest Forest Science Complex Flagstaff AZ 3: Professor and Extension Specialist Oregon State University Forest Engineering Department Corvallis

Publication date: September 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.

    Also published by SAF:
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