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Research Project: Ecohydrological Processes, Scale, Climate Variability, and Watershed Management

Location: Southwest Watershed Research Center

Title: A coupled modeling approach to assess the impact of fuel treatments on post-wildfire runoff and erosion

Author
item SIDMAN, G. - University Of Arizona
item GUERTIN, D.P. - University Of Arizona
item Goodrich, David - Dave
item THOMA, D. - National Park Service
item FALK, D. - University Of Arizona
item BURNS, I.S. - University Of Arizona

Submitted to: International Journal of Wildfire
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/15/2014
Publication Date: 4/1/2016
Citation: Sidman, G., Guertin, D., Goodrich, D.C., Thoma, D., Falk, D., Burns, I. 2016. A coupled modeling approach to assess the impact of fuel treatments on post-wildfire runoff and erosion. International Journal of Wildfire. 25:351-362. https://doi.org/10.1071/WF14058.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1071/WF14058

Interpretive Summary: The hydrological consequences of wildfires are some of the most significant and long-lasting effects. Since wildfire severity impacts post-fire watershed response, reducing excess woody fuels can be a useful tool for land managers to moderate the severity of future wildfire. However, current computer simulation models of post-wildfire watershed response focus on only one aspect of the fire-watershed linkage (fuel treatments, fire behavior, fire severity, or watershed responses). This study outlines a modeling approach that combines three models to sequentially to allow forest managers to model the effects of fuel treatments on post-fire hydrological impacts. Case studies involving a planned prescribed fire to remove excess fuels at Zion National Park and a planned mechanical removal of excess fuels at Bryce Canyon National Park were used to demonstrate the approach. The resulting linked application of these models could help managers estimate the impact of planned fuel treatments on wildfire severity and post-wildfire runoff/erosion, and compare various fuel treatment to and maximize post-wildfire mitigation results.

Technical Abstract: The hydrological consequences of wildfires are some of the most significant and long-lasting effects. Since wildfire severity impacts post-fire hydrological response, fuel treatments can be a useful tool for land managers to moderate this response. However, current models focus on only one aspect of the fire-watershed linkage (fuel treatments, fire behavior, fire severity, watershed responses). This study outlines a spatial modeling approach that couples three models used sequentially to allow managers to model the effects of fuel treatments on post-fire hydrological impacts. Case studies involving a planned prescribed fire at Zion National Park and a planned mechanical thinning at Bryce Canyon National Park were used to demonstrate the approach. Fuel treatments were modeled using FuelCalc and FlamMap within the Wildland Fire Assessment Tool (WFAT). The First Order Fire Effects Model (FOFEM) within WFAT was then used to evaluate the effectiveness of the fuel treatments by modeling wildfires on both treated and untreated landscapes. Post-wildfire hydrological response was then modeled using KINEROS2 within the Automated Geospatial Watershed Assessment Tool (AGWA). This linkage could help managers estimate the impact of planned fuel treatments on wildfire severity and post-wildfire runoff/erosion, and compare various fuel treatment scenarios to optimize resources and maximize mitigation results.