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The effects of fuel reduction treatments on runoff, infiltration and erosion in two shrubland areas in the north of Spain

Fernández, Cristina, Vega, José A., Fonturbel, Teresa
Journal of environmental management 2012 v.105 pp. 96-102
fire hazard reduction, mastication, mineral soils, organic soils, prescribed burning, rain, rainfall simulation, runoff, sediment yield, shrublands, shrubs, soil conservation, soil depth, Spain
The immediate effects of prescribed burning, shrub clearing and shrub mastication on runoff, infiltration and erosion were evaluated in two contrasting shrubland areas in northern Spain. Rainfall simulations (67 mm h⁻¹ for 30 min) were conducted immediately after fuel reduction treatments in each runoff plot. Compared to shrub mastication and shrub clearing, prescribed burning generated the lowest infiltration rate and highest runoff and erosion rates at both study sites. However, sediment yields measured immediately after treatments were low in all cases, from 0.31 to 2.22 g m⁻² after shrub clearing, 0.40–1.63 g m⁻² after shrub mastication and 2.30–8.11 g m⁻² after prescribed burning. Slope, type of fuel reduction treatment and the depth and cover of the soil organic layer remaining after treatment were the most important variables determining runoff and erosion during the first rainfall event following treatment. In the rainfall simulation plots subjected to prescribed burning, the maximum temperatures reached at the organic layer/mineral soil interface during burning also had a significant effect on soil loss. The findings show that good fuel management prescriptions make fire hazard reduction and soil conservation compatible in cases where the remaining soil cover is about 70%.