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Interaction between ash and soil microaggregates reduces runoff and soil loss

Thomaz, Edivaldo L.
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.625 pp. 1257-1263
microaggregates, rain, raindrop impact, runoff, soil erosion, soil properties, soil water, temperature
Areas subjected to fire have a two-layer system (i.e., ash and soil), which brings enormous complexities to hydrogeomorphic processes. In addition, the combinations of variables from the ash and the soil characteristics result in several possible two-layer system contexts. Here, the interactions among ash and microaggregates (i.e., ash placed over fine soil microaggregates) and their effects on hydro-erosional processes are explored. The ash was produced by an experimental fire and collected from a field managed by a slash-and-burn agricultural system. The design of the experiment included a strategy for considering combinations in which each of the various factors of interest, i.e., ash and microaggregates, was present or absent. In addition, the study searched for interactions between the two factors when both were present. In total, 600 g m2 of fine ash mixture (<0.250 mm), obtained from fire at different temperatures, and 90 g m2 of microaggregates was placed over a small splash pan (0.135 m2). Next, a rainfall of 56 mm h−1 lasting for 30 min was applied in four replicates for each treatment: 1) bare soil, 2) bare soil + microaggregates, 3) ash, and 4) ash + microaggregates. The interaction between the ash and soil microaggregates changed the soil hydrology dynamics, reducing soil moisture by 28% and surface runoff by 78%. The ash–microaggregates combination reduced soil loss by sheetwash by 20% and by rainsplash by 25%. Overall, the ash treatment increased soil loss by 47% compared to the case of bare soil. On the contrary, the ash–microaggregates interaction decreased soil loss by 26% compared to the ash treatment.