Effect of the Tank Hollow wildfire on water resources and trace metal mobilization in soil horizons in the Uinta-Wasatch Forests as affected by plant types

Authors: William Pacheco*, Utah Valley University, Dr. Eddy Cadet, Utah Valley University - Associate Professor - Department of Earth Sciences, Clayton Rawson, Utah Valley University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Environmental Science, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
Keywords: Prescribed fires, wildfires, water, groundwater, trace metals, trace elements, climate change, Forest Service, ecosystem, soil, soil horizons, hydrophobic, water table, drinking water.
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

A suspected result of climate change is a change in fire frequency. This reality is felt in the western states especially in arid areas such as Utah. In order to minimize the negative impacts of wild forest fires the Forest Service often schedules prescribed burns in areas (forest or agricultural locations) that are prone to such events. Prescribed burns are usually practiced in the autumn or spring seasons to consume understory vegetation and part of the forest floor layers. In this study, we are comparing the mobility of trace metals in soils that have been impacted by wildfire against controls that have not been impacted. Few studies have investigated the impact of wildfires on surface soil (0-15 cm) and water quality of nearby streams due to trace metals being mobilized from the intense heat. However, there is a scarcity of studies that investigate the impacts of forest fires on toxic trace metal concentration and their mobility on the soil horizon as affected by types of plants in prescribed burned areas. Studies have shown that trace metals, which occur naturally in the environment, are taken up and concentrated in roots or shoots of plants. When plants burn, these trace elements are released back into the environment in the soluble form. Depending on the intensity of the burn sites, the thickness of the hydrophobic layer formed and soil characteristics, trace metals can enter the soil and migrate toward the water table, a major source of drinking water.

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