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Vegetation type and the presence of ash as factors in the evolution of soil water repellency after a forest fire

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Author(s): P. Jiménez-Pinilla | E. Lozano | J. Mataix-Solera | V. Arcenegui | L.M. Zavala | A.Jordán | A. Morugan-Coronado

Journal: Flamma
ISSN 2171-665X

Volume: 4;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 105;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: Ash | Calcareous soils | Fire effects on soils | Restoration of fire-affected soils | Wildfires

ABSTRACT
After wildfires, burning may induce the occurrence of soil water repellency. Soil water repellency may vary in space and time in function of vegetation, the presence of ash and soil moisture. This study analyzes the evolution of fire-induced soil water repellency in function of these factors, and proposes measures to promote the restoration of fire-affected soils. Burnt and unburnt (control) soil plots under pine and shrub from a recently burned area (Gorga, Alicante, SE Spain) were established. Three treatments were applied: in some of the plots, the original ash layer was kept on the ground; in a second group, the ash layer was removed for simulating the effects of erosion; finally, in a third group, percolating irrigation was conducted to simulate a possible good input of water into the soil profile after burning, that could occur if the first rains were with high quantity but low intensity. During the dry season, soil moisture content was significantly lower in burned plots due to fire-induced water repellency and reduced vegetation cover. During the wet season, soil moisture decreased in the control unburnt plots due to direct evaporation of water intercepted by vegetation and consumption by roots. Fire increased soil water repellency only in plots under pine. Water repellency decreased during the wet season, disappearing in January and reappearing after declining rainfalls. This baseline recovery of soil water repellency was lower where ash removal was simulated. In unburned plots, seasonal fluctuations were less important. In general, ash removal promotes a rapid reduction of water repellency, since it can induce washing of hydrophobic compounds. Irrigation performed immediately after the fire also contributed to decreased water repellency.
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