The area burned by wildfires has increased in recent decades and is expected to increase in the future for many watersheds worldwide due to climate change. Burned areas within watersheds increase soil erosion rates, which can increase the downstream accumulation of sediment in rivers and reservoirs. Using an ensemble of climate, fire, and erosion models, we show that post-fire sedimentation is projected to increase for more than ¾ of watersheds by at least 10% and for more than ¼ of watersheds by at least 100 % by the 2041 to 2050 decade in the western USA. In this region, 65% of the water supply originates from forested lands that are prone to wildfire, and many of the watersheds with projected increases in sedimentation are important headwaters of rivers and reservoirs that meet water demands of downstream users.
Joel Sankey is a Research Geologist with the US Geological Survey in Flagstaff, AZ and is also an adjunct professor of the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability at Northern Arizona University. Previously, he was a USGS Mendenhall Fellow located at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and he holds a Ph.D. in Engineering and Applied Science from the Geosciences Department at Idaho State University. His research expertise spans the disciplines of geomorphology, soil science, ecology, remote sensing, GIS and geospatial science. He conducts interdisciplinary science to detect, monitor, and provide bio-geo-physical explanation for disturbance, resilience, and changes in soil, sediment, and vegetation. His research is primarily focused on resource management and conservation issues throughout the western USA and particularly in arid and semi-arid watersheds and rivers.
Utah State University Forestry Extension, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands, Southern Rockies Fire Science Network
This webinar is good for 1 CEU from the following organizations:
- Society of American Foresters
- International Society of Arboriculture
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