Author(s): Malcolm J Zwolinski
Hydrologic responses of watersheds are strongly related to vegetation and soil disturbances. Many of the storage and transfer components of the global hydrologic cycle are altered by the occurrence of fire. The major effect of fire on the hydrologic functioning of watersheds is the removal of vegetation and litter materials that protect the soil surface. Reductions in interception and evapotranspiration losses, infiltration rates and soil moisture deficits following severe fires result in more water available for surface runoff and subsequent changes in peak discharges, erosion, sedimentation and water quality. Watershed management implications regarding fire severity, wildfire and prescribed burns are discussed.