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Open AccessArticle

Wildfire and Prescribed Fire Effects on Forest Floor Properties and Erosion Potential in the Central Appalachian Region, USA

1
Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
2
US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Parsons, WV 26287, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2019, 10(6), 493; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10060493
Received: 10 May 2019 / Revised: 4 June 2019 / Accepted: 6 June 2019 / Published: 8 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fire Effects and Management in Forests)
Short- and long-term impacts of wildland fires on forest floor properties and erosion potential were examined at three locations in the Central Appalachian region, U.S.A. In 2018, two wildfires were investigated within six months of burning on the George Washington–Jefferson National Forest (GWJNF) in Bland County, Virginia and the Monongahela National Forest (MNF) in Grant County, West Virginia. An additional wildfire was studied eight years post-fire on the Fishburn Forest (FF) in Montgomery County, Virginia. A 2018 prescribed fire was also studied within six months of burning on the MNF in Pendleton County, West Virginia. Litter and duff consumption were examined to evaluate fire severity and char heights were measured to better understand fire intensity. The Universal Soil Loss Equation for forestlands (USLE-Forest) was utilized to estimate potential erosion values. For the 2018 comparisons, litter depth was least as a result of the wildfires on both the MNF and GWJNF (p < 0.001). Wildfire burned duff depths in 2018 did not differ from unburned duff depths on either the MNF or GWJNF. Eight years after the FF wildfire, post-fire litter depth was less than that of an adjacent non-burned forest (p = 0.29) and duff depth was greater than that of an adjacent non-burned forest (p = 0.76). Mean GWJNF wildfire char heights were greatest of all disturbance regimes at 10.0 m, indicating high fire intensity, followed by the MNF wildfire and then the MNF prescribed fire. USLE-Forest potential erosion estimates were greatest on the MNF wildfire at 21.6 Mg soil ha−1 year−1 due to slope steepness. The next largest USLE-Forest value was 6.9 Mg soil ha−1 year−1 on the GWJNF wildfire. Both the prescribed fire and the 2010 wildfire USLE-Forest values were approximately 0.00 Mg soil ha−1 year−1. Implications for potential long-term soil erosion resulting from similar wildfires in Central Appalachian forests appeared to be minimal given the 2010 wildfire results. View Full-Text
Keywords: forest soil; litter; duff; fire intensity; fire severity; char height; Universal Soil Loss Equation; Table Mountain pine (Pinus pungens Lamb.); Appalachian Mountains forest soil; litter; duff; fire intensity; fire severity; char height; Universal Soil Loss Equation; Table Mountain pine (Pinus pungens Lamb.); Appalachian Mountains
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Thompson, E.G.; Coates, T.A.; Aust, W.M.; Thomas-Van Gundy, M.A. Wildfire and Prescribed Fire Effects on Forest Floor Properties and Erosion Potential in the Central Appalachian Region, USA. Forests 2019, 10, 493.

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