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Joe Wagenbrenner

Joe Wagenbrenner
Research Hydrologist
Ecosystem Function and Health Program
1700 Bayview Drive
Arcata, CA 95521-6013
United States
Current Research
Measurement of the effects of forest disturbances, especially fire, on soil properties and hydrologic processes. Assessments of best management practices for mitigating runoff, erosion, and sediment transport. Development and improvement of modeling parameters used to predict erosion. Specific projects include: Caspar Creek Experimental Watersheds third treatment; Assessing the ecosystem impacts of the emerald ash borer on black ash wetlands; Optimizing decision support tool for improving stream habitat connectivity; and Assessing impacts of post-fire salvage logging and site preparation techniques on runoff and erosion.

Wagenbrenner, Joseph W.; MacDonald, Lee H.; Coats, Robert N.; Robichaud, Peter R.; Brown, Robert E. 2015. Effects of post-fire salvage logging and a skid trail treatment on ground cover, soils, and sediment production in the interior western United States. Forest Ecology and Management. 335: 176-193.

Wagenbrenner, J.W., P.R. Robichaud, R.E. Brown. 2016. Rill erosion in burned and salvage logged western montane forests: Effects of logging equipment type, traffic level, and slash treatment. Journal of Hydrology 541: 889–901

Van Grinsven, M.J., J.P. Shannon, J.C. Davis, N.W. Bolton, J.W. Wagenbrenner, R.K. Kolka, T.G. Pypker, 2017. Source water contributions and hydrologic responses to simulated emerald ash borer infestations in depressional black ash wetlands. Ecohydrology, doi: 10.1002/eco.1862
Past Research

Measuring the effectiveness of post-fire response treatments at mitigating runoff and erosion in the western U.S. Comparing the relative rill erosion rates of fire and logging skid trails to undisturbed forests. Developing rill erosion modeling parameters for disturbed and undisturbed forests. Quantifying post-fire erosion rates in western Montana.

Robichaud, Peter R.; Wagenbrenner, Joseph W.; Pierson, Fredrick B.; Spaeth, Kenneth E.; Ashmun, Louise E.; Moffet, Corey A. 2016. Infiltration and interrill erosion rates after a wildfire in western Montana, USA. Catena. 142: 77-88.

Robichaud, P. R.; Elliot, W. J.; Wagenbrenner, J. W. 2011. Probabilistic soil erosion modeling using the Erosion Risk Management Tool (ERMIT) after wildfires. ISELE Paper Number 11039. Paper presented at the international symposium on erosion and landscape evolution; September 18-21, 2011; Anchorage, AK. ASABE Publication Number 711P0311cd. 8 p.

Robichaud, Peter R.; Pierson, Frederick B.; Brown, Robert E.; Wagenbrenner, Joseph W. 2008. Measuring effectiveness of three postfire hillslope erosion barrier treatments, western Montana, USA. Hydrological Processes. 22: 159-170.

Robichaud, P. R.; Wagenbrenner, J. W.; Brown, R. E.; Wohlgemuth, P. M.; Beyers, J. L. 2008. Evaluating the effectiveness of contour-felled log erosion barriers as a post-fire runoff and erosion mitigation treatment in the western United States. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 17: 255-273.

Research Interest
Understanding the complexity of hydrologic processes at various spatial and temporal scales. Determining the effects that humans have on different components of the hydrologic cycle, understanding the effects of fire and other forest disturbances on hydrologic processes, and identifying the impacts of practices used to mitigate these effects. Developing and refining techniques used to quantify or describe hydrologic processes and properties.

Robichaud, Peter R.; Wagenbrenner, Joseph W.; Lewis, Sarah A.; Ashmun, Louise E.; Brown, Robert E.; Wohlgemuth, Peter M. 2013. Post-fire mulching for runoff and erosion mitigation; Part II: Effectiveness in reducing runoff and sediment yields from small catchments. Catena. 105: 93-111.

Robichaud, Peter R.; Lewis, Sarah A.; Wagenbrenner, Joseph W.; Ashmun, Louise E.; Brown, Robert E. 2013. Post-fire mulching for runoff and erosion mitigation; Part I: Effectiveness at reducing hillslope erosion rates. Catena. 105: 75-92.

Wagenbrenner, Joseph W.; Robichaud, Peter R. 2011. Rill erosion rates in burned forests. In: Goncalves, Antonio Bento; Vieira, Antonio A. B., eds. Proceedings of the 3rd International Meeting of Fire Effects on Soil Properties; 15-19 March 2011; University of Minho, Guimaraes, Portugal. Guimaraes, Portugal: Universidade do Minho, NIGP e CEGOT. p. 156-159.

Wagenbrenner, J. W.; Robichaud, P. R.; Elliot, W. J. 2010. Rill erosion in natural and disturbed forests: 2. Modeling approaches. Water Resources Research. 46: W10507.

Robichaud, P. R.; Wagenbrenner, J. W.; Brown, R. E. 2010. Rill erosion in natural and disturbed forests: 1. Measurements. Water Resources Research. 46: W10506.
Why This Research Is Important

This work will help provide an understanding of the resiliency, function, and health of natural and human-impacted environments. Among many other aspects, land managers and policy makers need to understand the effects of various management decisions on watersheds to make informed management decisions. Fires and other disturbances may cause dramatic impacts to hydrologic processes, resulting in risks to safety, health, wildlife habitat, and other human values. Quantifying and developing means to mitigate these impacts will improve our management of the risks these disturbances might have and improve our ability to predict ecosystem responses. Knowing the effectiveness of various post-disturbance management practices will allow land managers to select the most suitable mitigation techniques when mitigation is needed.

  • Washington State University, Pullman, Ph.D., Biological and Agricultural Engineering, 2013
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, M.S., Watershed Science, 2003
  • Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, B.M.E., Mechanical Engineering, 1993
Featured Publications
Other Publications
Citations of Non-Forest Service Publications
Research Highlights

Bringing the rain after the fire

Year: 2017
With not a cloud in the sky and temperatures soring into the triple digits, watershed scientists brought a cooling respite to the California interior, even if it was only within one 2-foot-by-2-foot patch at a time. Forest Service researchers used a portable rainfall simulator in mid-June to measure...