Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/22/2015
Publication Date: 2/17/2015
Citation: Williams, C.J., Pierson Jr, F.B., Al-Hamdan, O.Z. 2015. Hydrologic ramifications of an increased role of wildland fire across the rangeland-dry forest continuum [abstract]. Presented at the Great Basin Consortium Conference, Climate programs, Water Limitations, and Geospaces in the Great Basin, Boise State University, February 17-19, 2015, Boise, ID.
Technical Abstract: The increased role of wildland fire across the rangeland-dry forest continuum in the western United States (US) presents landscape-scale consequences relative runoff and erosion. Much of the Intermountain West now exists in a state in which rangeland and woodland wildfires stimulated by invasive cheatgrass and dense, horizontal and vertical fuel layers have a greater likelihood of progressing upslope into dry forests. Drier moisture conditions and warmer seasonal air temperatures, along with dense fuel loads, have lengthened fire seasons and increased in the frequency, severity and area burned at mid-elevations. These changes potentially increase the overall hydrologic vulnerability across the rangeland-dry forest continuum by spatially and temporally increasing soil surface exposure to runoff and erosion processes. We do not yet know the long-term ramifications of frequent soil loss associated with commonly occurring runoff events on repeatedly burned sites. However, plot to landscape-scale post-fire erosion rate estimates suggest potential losses of biologically important surface soils may be critically damaging for rangelands given inherent slow soil formation rates. This study presents a summary of fire effects on runoff and erosion across the rangeland-xeric forest continuum of the western US and provides a conceptual framework for advancing post-fire hydrologic vulnerability assessment.