We monitored sediment flux at 25 plots located at the northern end of the 2007 Milford Flat Fire (Lake Bonneville Basin, west-central Utah) to examine the effectiveness of post-fire rehabilitation treatments in mitigating risks of wind erosion during the first 3 years post fire. Maximum values were recorded during Mar–Jul 2009 when horizontal sediment fluxes measured with BSNE samplers ranged from 16.3 to 1251.0 g m−2 d−1 in unburned plots (n = 8; data represent averages of three sampler heights per plot), 35.2–555.3 g m−2 d−1 in burned plots that were not treated (n = 5), and 21.0–44,010.7 g m−2 d−1 in burned plots that received one or more rehabilitation treatments that disturbed the soil surface (n = 12). Fluxes during this period exhibited extreme spatial variability and were contingent on upwind landscape characteristics and surficial soil properties, with maximum fluxes recorded in settings downwind of treated areas with long treatment length and unstable fine sand. Nonlinear patterns of wind erosion attributable to soil and fetch effects highlight the profound importance of landscape setting and soil properties as spatial factors to be considered in evaluating risks of alternative post-fire rehabilitation strategies. By Mar–Jul 2010, average flux for all plots declined by 73.6% relative to the comparable 2009 period primarily due to the establishment and growth of exotic annual plants rather than seeded perennial plants. Results suggest that treatments in sensitive erosion-prone settings generally exacerbated rather than mitigated wind erosion during the first 3 years post fire, although long-term effects remain uncertain.
Additional publication details
Post-fire land treatments and wind erosion -- lessons from the Milford Flat Fire, UT, USA