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Assessment of post-wildfire erosion risk and effects on water quality in south-western Australia

Blake, D., Nyman, P., Nice, H., D'Souza, F.M.L., Kavazos, C.R.J. and Horwitz, P. (2020) Assessment of post-wildfire erosion risk and effects on water quality in south-western Australia. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 29 (3). pp. 240-257.

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Investigations of wildfire impact on water resources have escalated globally over the last decade owing to an awareness of climate-related vulnerabilities. Within Australia, research into post-wildfire erosion has focused on water supply catchments in the south-eastern region. Here, we examine post-wildfire erosion risk and its potential for water quality impacts in a catchment in south-western Australia. The catchment of the Harvey River, which drains from forested escarpments onto an agricultural coastal plain and into valuable coastal wetlands, was burnt by wildfire in 2016. The aims of this study were to determine erosion risk across contrasting landforms and variable fire severity, using the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE), and to determine whether post-fire water quality impacts could be detected at permanent river monitoring stations located on the coastal plain. RUSLE outputs showed erosion hot-spots at intersections of steep terrain and high fire severity and that these areas were confined to forested headwaters and coastal dunes. Monthly water quality data showed conspicuous seasonal patterns, but that sampling frequency was temporally too coarse to pick up predicted event-related effects, particularly given that the pre-existing monitoring sites were distal to the predicted zone of contamination.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems
Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © 2020 IAWF
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