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Connectivity of post-fire runoff and sediment from nested hillslopes and watersheds

Author(s): Codie Wilson, Stephanie Kampf, Sandra E. Ryan-Burkett, Tim Covino, Lee H. MacDonald, Hunter Gleason
Year Published: 2020

Wildfire increases the potential connectivity of runoff and sediment throughout watersheds due to greater bare soil, runoff and erosion as compared to pre‐fire conditions. This research examines the connectivity of post‐fire runoff and sediment from hillslopes (<1.5 ha; n=31) and catchments (<1000 ha; n=10) within two watersheds (< 1500 ha) burned by the 2012 High Park Fire. Our objectives were to: (1) identify sources and quantify magnitudes of post‐fire runoff and erosion at nested hillslopes and watersheds for two rain storms with varied duration, intensity and antecedent precipitation; and (2) assess the factors affecting the magnitude and connectivity of runoff and sediment across spatial scales for these two rain storms.

The two summer storms that are the focus of this research occurred during the third‐summer after burning. The first storm had low intensity rainfall over 11 hours (return interval <1‐2 years), whereas the second event had high intensity rainfall over 1 hour (return interval <1‐10 years). The lower intensity storm was preceded by high antecedent rainfall and led to low hillslope sediment yields and channel incision at most locations, whereas the high intensity storm led to infiltration‐excess overland flow, high sediment yields, in‐stream sediment deposition and channel substrate fining. For both storms, hillslope‐to‐stream sediment delivery ratios and area‐normalized cross‐sectional channel change increased with the percent of catchment that burned at high severity. For the high intensity storm, hillslope‐to‐stream sediment delivery ratios decreased with unconfined channel length (%). The findings quantify post‐fire connectivity and sediment delivery from hillslopes and channels, and highlight how different types of storms can cause varying magnitues and spatial patterns of sediment transport and deposition from hillslopes through channel networks.

Citation: Wilson, Codie; Kampf, Stephanie K.; Ryan, Sandra; Covino, Tim; MacDonald, Lee H.; Gleason, Hunter. 2020. Connectivity of post-fire runoff and sediment from nested hillslopes and watersheds. Hydrological Processes 35(1):e13975. https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.13975
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Water, Post-fire Management, Post-fire Rehabilitation, Erosion Control
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
Hot Topic(s):
NRFSN number: 22499
FRAMES RCS number: 62310
Record updated: Feb 3, 2021