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Impact of Wildfire and Watershed Restoration on Water Quality in South Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains

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Five streams in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina were monitored for 12 months after the April 1978 Jumping Branch Wildfire. These streams drain watersheds which were undisturbed (366 ha), partially burned (218 ha), partially burned and fertilized (272 ha), completely burned and fertilized (122 ha), and in all these conditions combined (1,038 ha). Differences in NO3-N, NH4-N, PO4-P, Na, K, Ca, and Mg concentrations, were attributed to the fire or subsequent watershed improvement operations. Concentrations of NO3-N increased the most (peak of 0.394 mg/l), primarily as a result of fertilizer application during restoration operations. Ammonium nitrogen, NO3-N, and PO4-P levels were elevated on the burned and fertilized watersheds mainly during storm events. Sodium, K, Ca, and Mg concentrations were 12 to 82 percent above background levels during most of the monitoring period. Suspended solid concentrations, determined during a three-month period which contained the largest single storm event within the first year after the fire, showed no relationship to watershed condition. Changes detected in water quality were not of biological significance to aquatic ecosystems, nor did they reduce the value of the streams as a potential source of drinking water.

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Hydrology Group Leader, Area Planning and Development, State and Private Forestry, USDA Forest Service, Washington, D.C.

Publication date: 1982-05-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Southern Journal of Applied Forestry covers an area from Virginia and Kentucky south to as far west as Oklahoma and east Texas.
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