White, 2015

Dissertation/Thesis

Examining the Impacts of Wildfire on Throughfall and Stemflow Chemistry and Flux at Plot and Catchment Scales

White A.M. (2015)
MS Thesis in Hydrology. University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, 51 pp  

Abstract

This study investigates the effects of fire on the chemistry and flux of precipitation diverted to the forest floor as stemflow and throughfall by observing the impact of the June 2013 Thompson Ridge Wildfire in the Jemez River Basin of New Mexico. The loss of canopy cover from wildfire drastically modifies landscapes and alters ecosystems as fire replaces leafy canopies with charred branches and trunks, changes soil composition and erosion processes, and affects hydrologic flow paths and water chemistry. In order to track these changes, throughfall and stemflow collectors were installed beneath burned and unburned canopies in two catchments impacted by the Thompson Ridge Fire. Throughfall, stemflow, and open precipitation samples were analyzed for major cations, anions, dissolved inorganic and organic carbon, trace metals, and rare earth elements to determine how fire affects the chemical composition of the precipitation that interacts with burned canopies. Precipitation samples collected from both burned and unburned sites during the 2014 summer monsoon season show variations across burn severity, specifically in calcium, strontium, phosphate, and dissolved inorganic carbon concentrations, and across collector type with stemflow concentrations generally higher than throughfall and open precipitation concentrations. A stem count model was used to determine tree density for individual plots and catchments from LiDAR images taken before the 2013 fire. The stem count model was used to upscale event and monsoon season solute fluxes from plot to catchment scale. Higher nutrient concentrations combined with higher volumes of precipitation diverted as stemflow in burned forests have a multiplicative effect resulting in greater nutrient fluxes via stemflow creating nutrient hot spots surrounding burned tree trunks. Upscaling these plot scale concentrations and solute fluxes allows this study to represent changes to an entire catchment and quantify effects of wildfire on chemical loads and water chemistry.

Citation

White A.M. (2015): Examining the Impacts of Wildfire on Throughfall and Stemflow Chemistry and Flux at Plot and Catchment Scales. MS Thesis in Hydrology. University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, 51 pp.

This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.