Soil erosion control after wildfire
Radio interview source: Hughes Simpson, Water Resources Coordinator, Texas Forest Service
Wildfires that have swept through parts of the country have done plenty of damage. But once a fire is out, there is another environmental concern: soil erosion.
Hughes Simpson is the water resources coordinator for the Texas Forest Service. He says fire intensity is a key factor. Fires that burn so hot that the forest canopy and understory are completely consumed leave only bare soil. This puts the land at risk for soil erosion. Soil type will also influence the erosion potential.
"If you have more of a sandy soil type, you could be looking at increased erosion rates compared to a soil that would have more of a clay content to it," says Simpson. "The topography of the landscape that was burned is another critical factor, and then the amount of precipitation that occurs following a wildfire. And this is not just the total amount of rainfall that falls, but it's the intensity at which it does fall."
A landowner's first instinct is to clean up after a wildfire. But Simpson says while doing this, it's important to immediately control erosion.
"Seed the area with a mix of native seed, grass, and forbs species. Sometimes you have to use some temporary cover crops to get some vegetation back on the landscape," says Simpson. "Other methods could be using some silt fences in key areas, or contour log terraces, erosion control mats. There's a host of products that are available, some are better suited for particular areas than others."
Natural resources professionals in your area will have information on what type of treatment can be done and how to do it.
Colorado State University has more information on specific erosion control techniques to use after a fire
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