Fire and Physical Environment Interactions
Soil, Water, and Air
This chapter describes the interactions of fire with the soil, water, and air components of the physical environment. Fire can change soil properties, such as soil texture, bulk density and porosity, infiltration and permeability, color and mineralogy, water and organic matter content, acidity, exchangeable cations, and rates of mineralization of nitrogen and phosphorus. Burning affects the chemical properties of soils by converting organic matter, including the residues in the litter layer, to ash. Hillslope hydrology changes after a fire, in part because of altered soil conditions of structure and water repellency. Fires can directly impact stream channels by killing the instream vegetation and changing riparian habitats. They also affect air quality by introducing smoke and the residues of combustion into the atmosphere. Negative impacts of atmospheric N deposition may be occurring in California’s ecosystems. Increased post-fire dry ravel and surface runoff greatly accelerate hillslope surface erosion.
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