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Comparison of debris-flow volumes from burned and unburned areas

Author(s): Paul M. Santi, Luca Morandi
Year Published: 2013

The goals of this work are to show the range of debris-flow volumes and watershed characteristics for several locations, and the differences in flow volumes for events triggered soon after wildfire. A dataset of 929 events was divided into groups based on location and burn status. The three unburned locations show significant differences: debris flows from the Italian Alps are larger and generate more debris per unit basin area or unit channel length than flows in the Western USA or in the Pacific Northwest. However, some of the observed differences may be attributed to the skew of the Italian Alps dataset towards larger events, and the small size and limited range of the Pacific Northwest data. For burned watersheds in the Western U.S. events, there is a clear progression in decreasing volume in debris flows as basins recover from the wildfire: it takes approximately 1 year, or at a few locations, as much as 3 years, for debris production to return to pre-fire rates. The difference is most apparent when the data are normalized for basin area (the area yield, which is 2× larger for burned basins) or for channel length (the length yield, which is 1.6× larger for burned basins). When normalized simultaneously for basin area, channel length, and channel gradient, burned areas produce significantly more debris (2.7–5.4 times as much). Burned areas in the Western USA are more sensitive to wildfire and produce larger debris flows than burned areas in more humid climates such as the Pacific Northwest.

Citation: Santi PM, Morandi L. 2013. Comparison of debris-flow volumes from burned and unburned areas. Landslides 10 (6), p. 757–769. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10346-012-0354-4 .
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Soils, Water
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 15772
Record updated: Nov 20, 2017