Honors College Thesis


The Effects of Wildfire on Soil Hydraulic Properties in an Appalachian Hardwood Forest Public Deposited

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  • Wildfires can affect soil physical properties, resulting in changes in infiltration, hillslope runoff, groundwater recharge, and sediment and dissolved nutrients to streams. In November 2016, the Chimney Tops 2 Fire burned 4,617 ha of Appalachian hardwood forest in eastern Tennessee. A portion of the fire burned through a National Ecological Observatory Network site, creating a unique opportunity to collect 37 core samples of soil ranging in burn severity immediately after the fire and one-year post-fire. Samples were processed in the lab to quantify saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ks), soil water retention, and bulk density. We found higher Ks values in the moderate/high burn severity soils with a decrease of ~65 % in the moderate/high burned sites over the one-year period. Soil moisture release curves indicated that water was more mobile and could drain more rapidly through the moderate/high burn severity soils with a decrease in air-entry suction of ~46 % in the moderate/high burn severity soils. The soil bulk density was very low at all sites, which could be due to ash from wildfire and the mature second growth forest type at the time of fire, with the moderate/high bulk density showing a ~10 % increase across all sites one-year post fire.
  • Key Words: wildfire, soil, saturated hydraulic conductivity, soil water retention, bulk density, burn severity
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