Heating effects on water repellency in Australian eucalypt forest soils and their value in estimating wildfire soil temperatures

Stefan H. Doerr, William H. Blake, Richard A. Shakesby, Frank Stagnitti, Saskia H. Vuurens, Geoff S. Humphreys, Peter Wallbrink

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    101 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Wildfires can induce or enhance soil water repellency under a range of vegetation communities. According to mainly USA-based laboratory studies, repellency is eliminated at a maximum soil temperature (T) of 280–400°C. Knowledge of T reached during a wildfire is important in evaluating post-fire soil physical properties, fertility and seedbed status. T is, however, notoriously difficult to ascertain retrospectively and often based on indicative observations with a large potential error. Soils under fire-prone Australian eucalypt forests tend to be water repellent when dry or moderately moist even if long unburnt. This study aims to quantify the temperature of water repellency destruction for Australian topsoil material sampled under three sites with contrasting eucalypt cover (Eucalyptus sieberi, E. ovata and E. baxteri). Soil water repellency was present prior to heating in all samples, increased during heating, but was abruptly eliminated at a specific T between 260 and 340°C. Elimination temperature varied somewhat between samples, but was found to be dependent on heating duration, with longest duration resulting in lowest elimination temperature. Results suggest that post-fire water repellency may be used as an aid in hindcasting soil temperature reached during the passage of a fire within repellency-prone environments.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)157-163
    Number of pages7
    JournalInternational journal of wildland fire
    Volume13
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2004

    Keywords

    • hydrophobicity
    • Eucalyptus
    • Australia
    • fire intensity
    • fire severity
    • soil ecology
    • soil hydrology

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