Measurements of post-fire sediment erosion, transport, and deposition collected within 2 years of a wildfire were compiled from the published literature (19272007) for sites across the western United States. Annual post-fire sediment yields were computed and grouped into four measurement methods (hillslope point and plot measurements, channel measurements of suspended-sediment and sediment erosion or deposition volumes). Post-fire sediment yields for each method were then grouped into eight different rainfall regimes. Mean sediment yield from channels (240 t ha-1) was significantly greater than from hillslopes (82 t ha-1). This indicated that on the time scale of wildfire (10100 years) channels were the primary sources of available sediment. A lack of correlation of sediment yield with topographic slope and soil erodibility further suggested that sediment availability may be more important than slope or soil erodibility in predicting post-fire sediment yields. The maximum post-fire sediment yields were comparable to long-term sediment yields from major rivers of the world. Based on 80 years of data from the literature, wildfires have been an important geomorphic agent of landscape change when linked with sufficient rainfall. These effects are limited in spatial scale to the immediate burned area and to downstream channel corridors.
Additional publication details
Synthesis of sediment yields after wildland fire in different rainfall regimes in the western United States