Natural and fire-induced soil water repellency in a Portugese Shrubland

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Post-fire land degradation is often attributed to fire-induced soil water repellency, despite the fact that soil water repellency is a natural phenomenon in many soils and is therefore not necessarily caused by fire. To improve our understanding of the role of soil water repellency in causing fire-induced land degradation, a long-term monitoring study was performed in which the temporal variation of topsoil water repellency (0–2.5-cm depth) was captured in a Portuguese shrubland before and after fire between November 2007 and March 2010. In addition, similarities and dissimilarities between changes following burning and clipping were assessed in a plot experiment. Soil water repellency appeared to be the rule rather than the exception, both before and after fire, and was strongly related to soil moisture and organic matter content. Surprisingly, despite the low soil temperatures during the fire (60°C) and the lack of direct soil moisture changes, fire significantly increased the persistence of soil water repellency (the water drop penetration time). Vegetation removal by burning and clipping played a key role in determining post-fire water repellency in litter and at the soil surface and considerably reduced the time needed to both develop and eliminate water repellency of the litter and surface soil. Where pre-fire (or “natural”) soil water repellency is abundant, an increase in erosion after fire cannot be solely caused by soil water repellency. Nevertheless, fire-induced removal of the protective canopy cover may increase the hydrologic significance of soil water repellency in burned landscapes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2283-2295
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • coarse-textured soils
  • forest soils
  • pine forests
  • hydrological behavior
  • eucalyptus-globulus
  • spatial variability
  • prescribed fire
  • sandy soil
  • hydrophobicity
  • moisture

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