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According to the US Geological Service, wildfires can damage watersheds

Blog Post created by faithberry Employee on Nov 20, 2015

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Map from USGS




“Wildfires may double erosion across a quarter of western US watersheds by 2050”, according to a recent article in Physics.org. The article explored how large wildfires can cause damage to watersheds, creeks, rivers and other bodies of water.  According to the article, wildfires can cause the properties of soils to alter which in turn makes them more vulnerable to erosion. A study sponsored n by the US Geological service has shown that wildfires may potentially cause soil erosion in the United States to double by the year 2015. 


According to the article, “Wildfires whipping across a landscape can burn away ground cover and vegetation, leaving soils exposed and easily erodible by precipitation. In other cases, fires can cause soil surfaces to harden. Instead of gently percolating underground, rain water and melted snow can rush across these hardened surfaces, gaining enough power to erode loose sediments.


The scientists used computer models to simulate future wildfire activity across the West between now and 2050. The models incorporated how climate change may alter the number and size of wildfires. Then, the scientists used a second set of models to estimate the amount of erosion that would result within a year of these wildfires.”


According to the article toxic items from homes and other materials burned during a wildfire event can also contaminate sediment which in turn pollutes sensitive aquatic environments located in the watersheds. This damage to the water can not only harm animals that reside here but also contaminate drinking water supplies.

 

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