Katherine Condon, Hydrology and Water Resources, will present her MS thesis research.
This study investigates translocation of particulate carbon and nitrogen from burned and unburned catchments within New Mexico’s Valles Caldera National Preserve following severe wildfire. Our research questions are: (1) how much carbon and nitrogen is eroded from burned slopes and re-deposited in debris fans? and (2) how do these quantities compare to fluvial export of particulate carbon and nitrogen from nearby unburned catchments? Results indicate that the ~200 kg ha-1 of nitrogen per depositional area on the debris fans represents ~ 50 to 100 years’ worth of atmospheric inputs. In total, 124 times more carbon and 21 times more nitrogen were deposited on the two fans than was exported in particulate form from all three unburned catchments combined in water year 2012. Our findings suggest that post-fire erosion may increase nitrogen loading to downslope environments, with the potential to alter the biogeochemical budgets of both aquatic and terrestrial systems.