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Net precipitation in burned and unburned subalpine forest stands after wildfire in the northern Rocky Mountains

Author(s): Chris H. S. Williams, Uldis Silins, Sheena A. Spencer, Michael J. Wagner, Micheal Stone, Monica B. Emelko
Year Published: 2019
Description:

Wildfire can exert considerable influence on many watershed processes, including the partitioning of precipitation by forest canopies. Despite general acknowledgement that canopy interception is reduced following wildfire, effects on net rainfall and snow accumulation have not been quantified. The objectives of this study were to document net rainfall and snow water equivalent (SWE) in burned and unburned (reference) forest stands over a 10-year period to characterise the effects of severe wildfire on net precipitation in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Differences in summer (June-September) rainfall between burned and reference stands suggest that wildfire reduced rainfall interception by 65%, resulting in a 48% increase in net rainfall from 2006 to 2008. This represented an average annual increase in net rainfall of 122 mm (36%) for 10 years after the fire. Similarly, a burned stand had 152 mm (78%) higher mean annual peak SWE than a paired reference stand. Collectively, burned stands had 274 mm (191-344 mm; 51%) more mean annual net precipitation for the first decade after fire. These results suggest that increases in net precipitation are likely following wildfire in subalpine forests and that, owing to the slow growth of these forests, post-fire changes may alter precipitation-runoff relationships for many years.

Citation: Williams, Chris H. S.; Silins, Uldis; Spencer, Sheena A.; Wagner, Michael J.; Stone, Micheal; Emelko, Monica B. 2019. Net precipitation in burned and unburned subalpine forest stands after wildfire in the northern Rocky Mountains. International Journal of Wildland Fire 28(10):750-760. https://doi.org/10.1071/WF18181
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Weather
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 20283
FRAMES RCS number: 58829
Record updated: Nov 20, 2019