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Post-fire Treatment Effectiveness for Hillslope Stabilization

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Erosion Barrier Treatment Effectiveness

Robichaud and others 2008b have completed a multi-year, multi-site study of the effectiveness of contour-felled log erosion barriers (LEBs) for reducing post-fire runoff, peak flows, and sediment yields in small paired watersheds. High-intensity rainfall (maximum rainfall intensity for a 10-min period [I10] ≥2-year return period) produced most of the measured runoff and sediment yields except in the southern California site where long-duration rain events produced most of the runoff and erosion. Runoff, peak flows, and sediment yields were significantly smaller in the treated watersheds for smaller rain events (I10<2-year return period). However, and perhaps more importantly, no treatment effects were measured for rain events with larger return periods–the events that produced most of the measured runoff and sediment yields.

Other shorter-term studies at smaller scales have corroborated those findings. Wagenbrenner and others (2006) found LEBs were ineffective in large storms but could be effective for small events given sufficient sediment storage capacity. Gartner (2003) found that LEBs generally were effective for the low intensity rain events observed during the 2-mon study period. In areas where high intensity rainfall is common, the use of erosion barriers for hillslope erosion mitigation may not be practical. However, erosion barriers can be combined with other treatments, such as mulches and/or seeding, and may contribute to the overall effectiveness of the treatment. Over time, erosion barriers lose effectiveness. If burned hillslopes will be vulnerable to erosion for more than one or two years, an erosion barrier installation may not retain enough capacity to be effective for even small rain events.

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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