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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Erosion following fire in a sagebrush ecosystem of the northern Great Basin, USA

Authors
item Pierson, Frederick
item Robichaud, P - US FOREST SERVICE
item Moffet, C - USDA-ARS
item Spaeth, K - NRCS

Submitted to: International Soil Conservation Organization Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: May 14, 2006
Publication Date: May 14, 2006
Citation: Pierson, F.B., Robichaud, P.R., Moffet, C.A., and Spaeth, K.E. 2006. Erosion following fire in a sagebrush ecosystem of the northern Great Basin, USA. 14th Conference of International Soil Conservation, May 14-19, 2006, Marrakech, Morocco. (CD-ROM)

Interpretive Summary: Wildfire is a major ecological process and management issue on rangelands throughout the western United States. Fire can reduce infiltration and increase runoff and erosion causing reduced site productivity and offsite flooding and sedimentation. Few data are available to quantify fire-induced hydrologic impacts on rangelands or to determine how long such impacts persist. The impacts of fire on infiltration, runoff, and sheet and rill erosion were compared between burned and unburned conditions. Fire impacts on infiltration, runoff and interrill erosion were localized primarily on areas directly under shrubs that have high surface litter accumulations. The largest and most persistent impact of fire was on rill erosion. Fire reduces the amount of litter and vegetation protecting the soil surface. Water can then move more easily down slope and increase rill erosion rates. The impacts of fire on rill erosion decreased with time, but persisted for up to four growing seasons after fire.

Technical Abstract: Wildfire is a major ecological process and management issue on rangelands throughout the western United States. Fire can reduce infiltration and increase runoff and erosion causing reduced site productivity and offsite flooding and sedimentation. Few data are available to quantify fire-induced hydrologic impacts on rangelands or to determine how long such impacts persist. Rainfall and concentrated flow simulation methodologies were used to quantify hydrologic impacts under rangeland wildfire. Small plot-scale spatial and temporal variations in fire impacts were compared to unburned conditions. Fire impacts on infiltration, runoff and interrill erosion were localized primarily on coppice microsites directly under shrubs characterized by high surface litter accumulations. The largest and most persistent impact of fire was on rill erosion processes. The impact of fire on rill flow dynamics and erosion rates persisted for up to four growing seasons after fire.

Last Modified: 11/27/2014
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