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The influence of wildfire extent and severity on streamwater chemistry, sediment and temperature following the Hayman Fire, Colorado


Rhoades, Charles C.; Entwistle, Deborah; Butler, Dana. The influence of wildfire extent and severity on streamwater chemistry, sediment and temperature following the Hayman Fire, Colorado. International Journal of Wildfire Science. 20: 430-442.

The 2002 Hayman Fire was the largest fire in recent Colorado history (558 km2). The extent of high severity combustion and possible effects on Denver's water supply focussed public attention on the effects of wildfire on water quality.Wemonitored stream chemistry, temperature and sediment before the fire and at monthly intervals for 5 years after the fire. The proportional extent of a basin that was burned or that burned at high severity was closely related to post-fire streamwater nitrate and turbidity. Basins that burned at high severity on >45% of their area had twice the streamwater nitrate and four times the turbidity as basins burned to a lower extent; these analytes remained elevated through 5 years post-fire. In those basins, the highest post-fire streamwater nitrate concentrations (23% of USA drinking water standards) were measured during spring, the peak discharge period. Summer streamwater was 4.0°C higher in burned streams on average compared with unburned streams; these persistent post-fire stream temperature increases are probably sufficient to alter aquatic habitat suitability. Owing to the slow pace of tree colonisation and forest regrowth, recovery of the watersheds burned by the Hayman Fire will continue for decades.

Keywords: Colorado Front Range, montane forests, nitrate, turbidity, wildfire effects


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http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs_other/rmrs_2011_rhoades_c001.pdf

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Title: RMRS Other Publications: The influence of wildfire extent and severity on streamwater chemistry, sediment and temperature following the Hayman Fire, Colorado
Electronic Publish Date: June 27, 2011
Last Update:
June 27, 2011

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