This study aimed to assess the hydrological and erosive effects of different levels of the fire severity in the drainage basin of the Trionto river (Calabria, southern Italy), which was partially burned by intense fires during the summer 2017. The analysis focused on the identification of wildfire areas using a supervised classification of remote sensing images with the minimum distance algorithm. The level of severity of each fire was then discriminated based on a procedure proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and adapted to the study area. To evaluate how wildfire occurrence affects the hydrological behaviour at the basin scale, the SCS-Curve Number model was used to document pre- and post-fire conditions in relation with the level of fire severity. Finally, the influence on erosion were analysed for analogous conditions at the basin scale using the RUSLE equation. The effects on hydrological balance and soil loss were evaluated by comparing the pre-fire value with three different post-fire scenarios: (a) different levels of severity on the surface covered by the fire (real case); (b) maximum level of severity on the surface covered by the fire; (c) total loss of the canopy and formation of a hydrophobic layer on the surface soil. The results confirmed that the level of severity of the forest fires, combined with climatic factors, morphological conditions, and the pedological characteristics of the basin, significantly influence changes to the hydrology and rates of erosion. Moreover, these impacts proved to be mainly dependent on the consequent, often notable, heterogeneity in the spatial distribution of burned areas with different severity.

Evaluation of hydrological and erosive effects at the basin scale in relation to the severity of forest fires

Nicolaci, A
Investigation
;
Ferrari, E
Writing – Original Draft Preparation
;
Cruscomagno, F
Data Curation
;
Iovino, F
Conceptualization
2019

Abstract

This study aimed to assess the hydrological and erosive effects of different levels of the fire severity in the drainage basin of the Trionto river (Calabria, southern Italy), which was partially burned by intense fires during the summer 2017. The analysis focused on the identification of wildfire areas using a supervised classification of remote sensing images with the minimum distance algorithm. The level of severity of each fire was then discriminated based on a procedure proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and adapted to the study area. To evaluate how wildfire occurrence affects the hydrological behaviour at the basin scale, the SCS-Curve Number model was used to document pre- and post-fire conditions in relation with the level of fire severity. Finally, the influence on erosion were analysed for analogous conditions at the basin scale using the RUSLE equation. The effects on hydrological balance and soil loss were evaluated by comparing the pre-fire value with three different post-fire scenarios: (a) different levels of severity on the surface covered by the fire (real case); (b) maximum level of severity on the surface covered by the fire; (c) total loss of the canopy and formation of a hydrophobic layer on the surface soil. The results confirmed that the level of severity of the forest fires, combined with climatic factors, morphological conditions, and the pedological characteristics of the basin, significantly influence changes to the hydrology and rates of erosion. Moreover, these impacts proved to be mainly dependent on the consequent, often notable, heterogeneity in the spatial distribution of burned areas with different severity.
Forest Fire Severity, Hydrological Impacts, Soil Loss Estimation, Remote Sensing
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11770/295808
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