Effects of Wildfire on Soils and Watershed Processes
Wildfire can cause water repellency and consume plant canopy, surface plants and litter, and structure-enhancing organics within soil. Changes in soil moisture, structure, and infiltration can accelerate surface runoff, erosion, sediment transport, and deposition. Intense rainfall and some soil and terrain conditions can contribute to overland runoff and in-channel debris torrents. Mineralization of organic matter, interruption of root uptake, and loss of shade can further impact water quality by increasing stream temperatures and nutrient concentrations. Where wildfires are unnaturally large and severe, watershed effects are likely to be negatively skewed.