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Trace elements in stormflow, ash, and burned soil following the 2009 station fire in southern California

May 4, 2016

Most research on the effects of wildfires on stream water quality has focused on suspended sediment and nutrients in streams and water bodies, and relatively little research has examined the effects of wildfires on trace elements. The purpose of this study was two-fold: 1) to determine the effect of the 2009 Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest northeast of Los Angeles, CA on trace element concentrations in streams, and 2) compare trace elements in post-fire stormflow water quality to criteria for aquatic life to determine if trace elements reached concentrations that can harm aquatic life. Pre-storm and stormflow water-quality samples were collected in streams located inside and outside of the burn area of the Station Fire. Ash and burned soil samples were collected from several locations within the perimeter of the Station Fire. Filtered concentrations of Fe, Mn, and Hg and total concentrations of most trace elements in storm samples were elevated as a result of the Station Fire. In contrast, filtered concentrations of Cu, Pb, Ni, and Se and total concentrations of Cu were elevated primarily due to storms and not the Station Fire. Total concentrations of Se and Zn were elevated as a result of both storms and the Station Fire. Suspended sediment in stormflows following the Station Fire was an important transport mechanism for trace elements. Cu, Pb, and Zn primarily originate from ash in the suspended sediment. Fe primarily originates from burned soil in the suspended sediment. As, Mn, and Ni originate from both ash and burned soil. Filtered concentrations of trace elements in stormwater samples affected by the Station Fire did not reach levels that were greater than criteria established for aquatic life. Total concentrations for Fe, Pb, Ni, and Zn were detected at concentrations above criteria established for aquatic life.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Trace elements in stormflow, ash, and burned soil following the 2009 station fire in southern California
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0153372
Authors Carmen A. Burton, Todd M. Hoefen, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Katherine L. Baumberger, Adam R. Backlin, Elizabeth Gallegos, Robert N. Fisher
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title PLoS ONE
Index ID 70170954
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center