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Keywords:

  • post-fire rehabilitation;
  • erosion;
  • ground cover;
  • straw mulch;
  • seeding;
  • contour felling

Abstract

Post-fire rehabilitation treatments are commonly implemented after high-severity wildfires, but few data are available about the efficacy of these treatments. This study assessed post-fire erosion rates and the effectiveness of seeding, straw mulching, and contour felling in reducing erosion after a June 2000 wildfire northwest of Loveland, Colorado. Site characteristics and sediment yields were measured on 12 burned and untreated control plots and 22 burned and treated plots from 2000 to 2003. The size of the hillslope plots ranged from 0·015 to 0·86 ha.

Sediment yields varied significantly by treatment and were most closely correlated with the amount of ground cover. On the control plots the mean sediment yield declined from 6–10 Mg ha−1 in the first two years after burning to 1·2 Mg ha−1 in 2002 and 0·7 Mg ha−1 in 2003. Natural regrowth caused the amount of ground cover on the control plots to increase progressively from 33% in fall 2000 to 88% in fall 2003. Seeding had no effect on either the amount of ground cover or sediment yields. Mulching reduced sediment yields by at least 95% relative to the control plots in 2001, 2002, and 2003, and the lower sediment yields are attributed to an immediate increase in the amount of ground cover in the mulched plots. The contour-felling treatments varied considerably in the quality of installation, and sediment storage capacities ranged from 7 to 32 m3 ha−1. The initial contour-felling treatment did not reduce sediment yields when subjected to a very large storm event, but sediment yields were significantly reduced by a contour-felling treatment installed after this large storm. The results indicate that contour felling may be able to store much of the sediment generated in an average year, but will not reduce sediment yields from larger storms. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.