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  1. Given the widespread presence of non-native vegetation in urban and Mediterranean watersheds, it is important to evaluate how these sensitive ecosystems will respond to activities to manage and restore native vegetation conditions. This research focuses on Del Cerro, a tributary of the San Diego River in California, where non-native vegetation dominates the riparian zone, creating flooding and fire hazards. Field data were collected in 2018 to 2021 and consisted of water depth, streamflow, and stream temperature. Our data set also captured baseline conditions in the floodplain before and after the removal of burned non-native vegetation in November 2020. Observed changes in hydrologic and geomorphic conditions were used to parameterize and calibrate a two-dimensional hydraulic model to simulate urban floodplain hydraulics after vegetation removal. We utilized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Hydrologic Engineering Center River Assessment System (HEC-RAS) model to simulate the influence of canopy loss and vegetation disturbance and to assess the impacts of vegetation removal on stream restoration. We simulated streamflow, water depth, and flood extent for two scenarios: (1) 2019; pre-restoration where non-native vegetation dominated the riparian area, and (2) 2021; post-restoration following the removal of non-native vegetation and canopy. Flooding after restoration in 2021 was more frequent compared to 2019. We also observed similar flood extents and peak streamflow for storm events that accumulated half the amount of precipitation as pre-restoration conditions. Our results provide insight into the responses of small urban stream reaches to the removal of invasive vegetation and canopy cover. 
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  2. Wildfires can pose environmental challenges in urban watersheds by altering the physical and chemical properties of soil. Further, invasive plant species in urban riparian systems may exacerbate changes in geomorphological and soil processes after fires. This research focuses on the 2018 Del Cerro fire, which burned upland and riparian areas surrounding Alvarado Creek, a tributary to the San Diego River in California. The study site has dense and highly flammable non-native vegetation cover (primarily Arundo donax) localized in the stream banks and has primarily native vegetation on the hillslopes. We estimated the post-fire organic matter and particle distributions for six time points during water years 2019 and 2020 at two soil depths, 0–15 cm and 15–30 cm, in upland and riparian areas. We observed some of the largest decreases in organic matter and particle-size distribution after the first post-fire rainfall event and a general return to initial conditions over time. Seasonal soil patterns were related to rainfall and variability in vegetation distribution. The riparian soils had higher variability in organic matter content and particle-size distributions, which was attributed to the presence of Arundo donax. The particle-size distributions were different between upland and riparian soils, where the riparian soils were more poorly graded. Overall, the greatest change occurred in the medium sands, while the fine sands appeared to be impacted the longest, which is a result of decreased vegetation that stabilized the soils. This research provides a better understanding of upland and riparian soil processes in an urban and Mediterranean system that was disturbed by non-native vegetation and fire. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
    A combination of satellite image indices and in-field observations was used to investigate the impact of fuel conditions, fire behavior, and vegetation regrowth patterns, altered by invasive riparian vegetation. Satellite image metrics, differenced normalized burn severity (dNBR) and differenced normalized difference vegetation index (dNDVI), were approximated for non-native, riparian, or upland vegetation for traditional timeframes (0-, 1-, and 3-years) after eleven urban fires across a spectrum of invasive vegetation cover. Larger burn severity and loss of green canopy (NDVI) was detected for riparian areas compared to the uplands. The presence of invasive vegetation affected the distribution of burn severity and canopy loss detected within each fire. Fires with native vegetation cover had a higher severity and resulted in larger immediate loss of canopy than fires with substantial amounts of non-native vegetation. The lower burn severity observed 1–3 years after the fires with non-native vegetation suggests a rapid regrowth of non-native grasses, resulting in a smaller measured canopy loss relative to native vegetation immediately after fire. This observed fire pattern favors the life cycle and perpetuation of many opportunistic grasses within urban riparian areas. This research builds upon our current knowledge of wildfire recovery processes and highlights the unique challenges of remotely assessing vegetation biophysical status within urban Mediterranean riverine systems. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    The goal of this research was to characterize the impact of invasive riparian vegetation on burn severity patterns and fluvial topographic change in an urban Mediterranean riverine system (Med-sys) after fire in San Diego, California. We assessed standard post-fire metrics under urban conditions with non-native vegetation and utilized field observations to quantify vegetation and fluvial geomorphic processes. Field observations noted both high vegetation loss in the riparian area and rapidly resprouting invasive grass species such as Arundo donax (Giant Reed) after fire. Satellite-based metrics that represent vegetation biomass underestimated the initial green canopy loss, as did volumetric data derived from three-dimensional terrestrial laser scanning data. Field measurements were limited to a small sample size but demonstrated that the absolute maximum topographic changes were highest in stands of Arundo donax (0.18 to 0.67 m). This work is the first quantification of geomorphic alterations promoted by non-native vegetation after fire and highlights potential grass–fire feedbacks that can contribute to geomorphic disruption. Our results support the need for ground-truthing or higher resolution when using standard satellite-based indices to assess post-fire conditions in urban open spaces, especially when productive invasive vegetation are present, and they also emphasize restoring urban waterways to native vegetation conditions. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    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. 
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  6. null (Ed.)