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Sources of inherent infiltration variability in postwildfire soils

July 3, 2019

An automated disc infiltrometer was developed to improve the measurements of soil hydraulic properties (saturated hydraulic conductivity and sorptivity) of soils affected by wildfire. Guidelines are given for interpreting curves showing cumulative infiltration as a function of time measured by the autodisc. The autodisc was used to measure the variability of these soil hydraulic properties in three different sample sets: (a) a reference soil consisting of a nonrepellent, uniform, fine sand; (b) soils with the same soil textural classification derived from the same bedrock geology but having different initial burn severities; and (c) soils from different bedrock geology but having the same burn severity. The autodisc infiltrometer had greater sampling rates and volume resolution when compared with the visual minidisc infiltrometer from previous studies. There was no statistical difference in the mean values measured using the autodisc and visual minidisc, but the variability of the autodisc measurements was significantly less than the visual minidisc for a given set of samples. The greatest variability of soil hydraulic properties in reference samples with uniform particle size was attributed to different pore geometries (coefficient of variation [COV] = 0.28–0.34). Unburned field samples (same soil type) with heterogeneous particle sizes had greater variability (COV = 0.57–0.78) than the reference samples. However, this basic variability decreased or remained constant in these field samples as burn severity increased. Additional sources of variability (COV = 0.53–1.99) were attributed to multiple layers resulting from ash or sediment deposition. Results indicate that resolving differences in soil hydraulic properties from different sites requires more than the common 10 random samples because of the multiple sources of variability.

Publication Year 2019
Title Sources of inherent infiltration variability in postwildfire soils
DOI 10.1002/hyp.13543
Authors John A. Moody, Richard G. Martin, Brian A. Ebel
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Hydrological Processes
Index ID 70237902
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization WMA - Earth System Processes Division