Effects of fire ash on soil water retention

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67 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Despite the pronounced effect of fire on soil hydrological systems, information on the direct effect of fire on soil water retention characteristics is limited and contradictory. To increase understanding in this area, the effect of fire on soil water retention was evaluated using laboratory burning and heating experiments. In addition, ash-infiltration and ash-incorporation experiments were performed to evaluate the effect of ash on soil water retention. While heating soil to 200 °C and below did not change soil properties, burning and heating to 300 °C and above increased bulk density, clay and silt content, and decreased organic matter and sand content. Burning and heating above 200 °C decreased the amount of water stored at the nine tensions considered, although the effect on soil water retention did not always increase with increasing temperature. Changes were largest for low tensions, i.e. between saturation and field capacity (10 kPa). Heating to 200 °C decreased the amount of plant available water, but despite reducing the amount of water stored at evaluated tensions, burning and heating to 300 °C and above increased the amount of plant available water. This may be caused by more complete combustion of organic matter at the higher temperatures and the production of ash. Direct incorporation of ash into soils did not alter soil texture but increased water retention from saturation to 310 kPa tension. Ash infiltration experiments interestingly had a similar effect, despite the fact that very little ash washed into the samples. Results from these experiments contribute to understanding post-fire changes in hydrological and erosion processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-285
JournalGeoderma
Volume159
Issue number3-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • physical-properties
  • fly-ash
  • forest soil
  • hydrological properties
  • mediterranean soils
  • moisture retention
  • organic-matter
  • wildfire
  • erosion
  • texture

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