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Title: A Case Study of Soil Moisture and Infiltration after an Urban Fire
There is an increased risk of future fire disturbances due to climate change and anthropogenic activity. These disturbances can impact soil moisture content and infiltration, which are important antecedent conditions for predicting rainfall–runoff processes in semi-arid regions. Yet these conditions are not well documented. This case study provides critical field measurements and information, which are needed to improve our understanding of mechanisms such as precipitation and temperature that lead to the variability of soil properties and processes in urban and burned landscapes. In June 2018, a fire burned a portion of the riparian zone in Alvarado Creek, an urban tributary of the San Diego River in California, United States. This fire provided an opportunity to observe soil moisture content and infiltration for one year after the fire. Three transects (one burned and two unburned) were monitored periodically to evaluate the complex spatial and temporal dynamics of soil moisture and infiltration patterns. Average dry season soil moisture content was less than five percent volume water content (%VWC) for all transects, and the burned transect exhibited the lowest %VWC during the wet season. Infiltration rates displayed a high degree of spatial and temporal variability. However, the location with the highest burn severity had the lowest average infiltration rate. The observed differences between the burned and unburned transects indicate that the fire altered hydrologic processes of the landscape and reduced the ability of the soil to retain water during the wet season. This research provides the first high-resolution soil moisture and infiltration field analysis of an urban fire-disturbed stream in southern California and a method to characterize post-fire hydrologic conditions for rainfall–runoff processes.  more » « less
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