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Effects of postfire seeding and fertilizing on hillslope erosion in north-central Washington, USA

Posted date: November 07, 2016
Publication Year: 
Authors: Robichaud, Pete R.; Lillybridge, T.R.; Wagenbrenner, Joseph W.
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Catena. 67: 56-67.


After the 1998 North 25 Fire in the Wenatchee National Forest, eight study sites were established on steep, severely burned hillslopes to examine the effectiveness of postfire seeding and fertilizing treatments in increasing cover to reduce hillslope erosion, and to measure the nutrient content of the eroded sediment. At each site, four 4 by 9 m plots were located with four randomly applied treatments: seed (winter wheat, Triticum estivum) at 34 kg ha-1, fertilizer (75% ammonium nitrate and 25% ammonium sulfate) at 31 kg ha-1, seed and fertilizer, and untreated control. Sediment fences were installed at the base of each plot to measure erosion rates and sample the eroded sediments. In addition, precipitation amounts and intensities, surface cover, canopy cover, and nutrient concentrations in the eroded sediments were measured for four years after the fire. Total precipitation was below average during the four-year study period, and most erosion occurred during short duration, moderate intensity summer rainfall events. The overall first year mean erosion rate was 16 Mg ha-1 yr-1, and this decreased significantly in the second year to 0.66 Mg ha-1 yr-1. There were no significant differences in erosion rates between treatments. In the first year, the seeded winter wheat provided 4.5% canopy cover, about a fourth of the total canopy cover, on the seeded plots; however, the total canopy cover on the seeded plots did not differ from the unseeded plots. The below average precipitation in the spring after seeding may have affected the winter wheat survival rate. In the fourth year of the study, the mean canopy cover in the fertilization treatment plots was 74%, and this was greater than the 55% mean canopy cover in the unfertilized plots ( p =0.04); however, there was no accompanying reduction in erosion rate for either the seeding or fertilization treatments. Revegetation by naturally occurring species was apparently not impacted by seeding during the four years of this study. The pH of the sediment as well as the concentrations of NO3–N, NH4–N, and K was not affected by seeding or fertilizing. The nutrient loads in the eroded sediment were minimal, with most of the nutrient loss occurring in the first postfire year. These results confirm that seeding success is highly dependent on rainfall intensity, amounts, and timing, and that soil nutrients lost in eroded sediments are unlikely to impair the site productivity.


Robichaud, P. R.; Lillybridge, T. R.; Wagenbrenner, J. W. 2006. Effects of postfire seeding and fertilizing on hillslope erosion in north-central Washington, USA. Catena. 67: 56-67.