Fire Intensity / Burn Severity
Runoff and erosion processes can increase after wildfire and post‐fire salvage logging, but little is known about the specific effects of soil compaction and surface cover after post‐fire salvage logging activities on these processes. We carried out rainfall simulations after a high‐severity wildfire and post‐fire salvage logging to assess the effect of compaction (uncompacted or compacted by skid traffic during post‐fire salvage logging) and surface cover (bare or covered with logging slash). Runoff after 71 mm of rainfall across two 30‐min simulations was similar for the bare plots regardless of the compaction status (mean 33 mm). In comparison, runoff in the slash‐covered plots averaged only 22 mm. Rainsplash in the downslope direction averaged 30 g for the bare plots across compaction levels and decreased significantly by 70% on the slash‐covered plots. Sediment yield totaled 460 and 818 g m‐2 for the uncompacted and compacted bare plots, respectively, and slash significantly reduced these amounts by an average rate of 71%. Our results showed that soil erosion was still high two years after the high severity burning and the effect of soil compaction nearly doubled soil erosion via nonsignificant increases in runoff and sediment concentration. Antecedent soil moisture (dry or wet) was the dominant factor controlling runoff, while surface cover was the dominant factor for rainsplash and sediment yield. Saturated hydraulic conductivity and interrill erodibility calculated from these rainfall simulations confirmed previous laboratory research and will support hydrologic and erosion modeling efforts related to wildfire and post‐fire salvage logging. Covering the soil with slash mitigated runoff and significantly reduced soil erosion, demonstrating the potential of this practice to reduce sediment yield and soil degradation from burned and logged areas.