Main content area

Modelling surface runoff to evaluate the effects of wildfires in multiple semi‐arid, shrubland‐dominated catchments

Moussoulis, Elias, Mallinis, Giorgos, Koutsias, Nikos, Zacharias, Ierotheos
Hydrological processes 2015 v.29 no.20 pp. 4427-4441
Pinus, hydrologic models, pastures, remediation, runoff, semiarid zones, shrublands, soil properties, subwatersheds, wildfires, Greece
Wildfires change the infiltration properties of soil, reduce the amount of interception and result in increased runoff. A wildfire at Northeast Attica, Central Greece, in August 2009, destroyed approximately one third of a study area consisting of a mixture of shrublands, pastures and pines. The present study simultaneously models multiple semi‐arid, shrubland‐dominated Mediterranean catchments and assesses the hydrological response (mean annual and monthly runoff and runoff coefficients) during the first few years following wildfires. A physically based, hydrological model (MIKE SHE) was chosen. Calibration and validation results of mean monthly discharge presented very good agreement with the observed data for the pre‐wildfire and post‐wildfire period for two subcatchments (Nash–Sutcliffe Efficiency coefficient of 79.7%). The model was then used to assess the pre‐wildfire and post‐wildfire runoff responses for each of seven catchments in the study area. Mean annual surface runoff increased for the first year and after the second year following the wildfires increased by 112% and 166%, respectively. These values are within the range observed in similar cases of monitored sites. This modelling approach may provide a way of prioritizing catchment selection with respect to post‐fire remediation activities. Additionally, this modelling assessment methodology would be valuable to other semi‐arid areas because it provides an important means for comprehensively assessing post‐wildfire response over large regions and therefore attempts to address some of the scaled issues in the specific literature field of research.