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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Risk Assessment of Fuel Management Practices on Hillslope Erosion Processes

Authors
item Robichaud, P - FOREST SERVICE
item Elliot, W - FOREST SERVICE
item Pierson, Frederick
item Wohlgemuth, P - FOREST SERVICE

Submitted to: Proceedings of Joint Fire Science Conference and Workshop
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: June 15, 1999
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Recent increases in wildfire have placed wildland values such as soil and water quality at greater risk due to increased soil erosion over natural levels. Higher runoff and erosion rates from severely burned landscapes can lead to a loss of site productivity, downstream flooding and increased risk to human life and property. Field and laboratory studies are being conducted to address knowledge gaps in our understanding of wildfire and fuels management practices on infiltration, runoff and soil erosion. We are also developing a user- friendly computer interface to be able to evaluate the risk and consequences of erosion hazards following wildfires, mitigation treatments, and prescribed burns. Specific tasks that we are addressing include: determining hillslope characteristics that govern dry ravel processes such as soil water content, slope steepness, vegetation density, soil texture and disturbance impacts; determining the spatial and temporal variability in infiltration and erosion parameters needed to predict overland flow and soil detachment after wildfire; quantifying effectiveness of three mitigation practices in reducing sediment production for specified design storms following wildfires; and evaluating measured erosion rates and estimates of sediment production after wildfires at the upland watershed/catchment scale. Data collection has begun from a burned over catchment and preliminary results are being analyzed. Prototype methodologies and approaches to evaluate and model erosion risk and hazard are being developed.

Technical Abstract: Fuel and land management activities in the past century have placed wildland values such as soil and water quality at greater risk due to increased soil erosion over natural levels. High runoff rates from severely burned landscapes can lead to flooding and increased risk to human life and property. Field and laboratory studies are being conducted to address knowledge gaps in our understanding of wildfire and fuel management practices on soil erosion, and to develop a user- friendly computer interface for evaluating the risk and consequences of erosion hazards following wildfires, mitigation treatments, and prescribed burns. Specific tasks that we are addressing include: determining hillslope characteristics that govern dry ravel processes such as soil water content, slope steepness, vegetation density, soil texture and disturbance impacts; determining the spatial and temporal variability in infiltration and erosion parameters needed to predict overland flow and soil detachment after wildfire; quantifying effectiveness of three mitigation practices in reducing sediment production for specified design storms following wildfires; and evaluating measured erosion rates and estimates of sediment production after wildfires at the upland watershed/catchment scale. Data collection has begun from a burned over catchment and preliminary results will be presented. Additional discussion will address methodologies and approaches to evaluate and model erosion risk and hazard.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014
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