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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2018-98
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2018-98
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 04 Feb 2019

Research article | 04 Feb 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).

Spatial and temporal patterns of sediment storage and erosion following a wildfire and extreme flood

Daniel J. Brogan1, Peter A. Nelson1, and Lee H. MacDonald2 Daniel J. Brogan et al.
  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1372, USA
  • 2Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1476, USA

Abstract. Post-wildfire landscapes are highly susceptible to rapid geomorphic changes at both the hillslope and watershed scales due to increases in hillslope runoff and erosion, and the resulting downstream effects. Numerous studies have documented these changes at the hillslope scale, but relatively few studies have documented larger-scale post-fire geomorphic changes over time. In this study we used five airborne laser scanning (ALS) datasets collected over four years to quantify valley bottom changes in two ∼15 km2 watersheds, Skin Gulch and Hill Gulch, after the June 2012 High Park fire in northern Colorado and a large mesoscale flood 15 months later. The objectives were to: 1) quantify spatial and temporal patterns of erosion and deposition throughout the channel network following the wildfire and including the mesoscale flood; and 2) evaluate whether these changes are correlated to precipitation metrics, burn severity, or morphologic variables. Geomorphic changes were calculated using a DEMs of difference (DoD) approach for the channel network segmented into 50-m lengths. The results showed net sediment accumulation after the wildfire in the valley bottoms of both watersheds, with the greatest accumulations in the first two years after burning in wider and flatter valley bottoms. In contrast, the mesoscale flood caused large net erosion, with the greatest erosion in the areas with the greatest post-fire deposition. Volume changes for the different time periods were weakly but significantly correlated to, in order of decreasing correlation, contributing area, channel width, percent burned at high and/or moderate severity, channel slope, confinement ratio, maximum 30-minute rainfall, and total rainfall. These results suggest that morphometric characteristics, when combined with burn severity and a specified storm, can indicate the relative likelihood and locations for post-fire erosion and deposition. This information can help assess downstream risks and prioritize areas for post-fire hillslope rehabilitation treatments.

Daniel J. Brogan et al.
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Daniel J. Brogan et al.
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Dataset associated with "Spatial and temporal patterns of sediment storage and erosion following a wildfire and extreme flood" P. A. Nelson and D. J. Brogan https://doi.org/10.25675/10217/193080

Daniel J. Brogan et al.
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Short summary
We used high-resolution topography collected over four years to investigate how two watersheds in Colorado responded to the June 2012 High Park Fire and an extreme flood in September 2013. After the fire, sediment eroded from the hillslopes and deposited in valley bottoms, and the large flood eroded much of this deposited sediment. Patterns of erosion and deposition were related to landscape characteristics, burn severity, and rainfall, which may inform future post-fire treatment strategy.
We used high-resolution topography collected over four years to investigate how two watersheds...
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