USDA Forest Service

Post-fire Treatment Effectiveness for Hillslope Stabilization

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Erosion barriers, made from natural and engineered materials, have been used for decades to mitigate post-wildfire runoff and erosion. These structures are designed to slow runoff, cause localized ponding, and store eroded sediment. Common post-wildfire hillslope erosion barriers include contour-felled logs (LEBs) (fig. 1);

Fig. 1 -- A contour-felled log erosion barrier

straw wattles (10 in [0.25 m] diameter, 13 to 20 ft [4 to 6 m] long nylon mesh tubes filled with straw) (fig. 2);

Fig. 2 -- A recently installed straw wattle erosion barrier.

contour trenches (hand or machine dug trenches), and straw bales (blocks of straw bound with twine) (fig. 3).

Fig. 3 -- A set of straw bale erosion barriers installed in a burned swale.

To eliminate long uninterrupted flow paths, erosion barriers are generally installed in staggered tiers with the center of each erosion barrier directly downslope from the gap between the two erosion barriers above it (fig. 4).

Fig. 4 -- Straw wattles installed in a staggered layout on a burned hillslope.

The information on this web page has been excerpted from the following publication:

Robichaud, Peter R.; Ashmun, Louise E.; Sims, Bruce D. 2010. Post-fire treatment effectiveness for hillslope stabilization. Gen Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-240. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 62 p.

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