Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Katherine J. ElliottJames M. Vose
    Date: 2006
    Source: In: Second Interagency Conference on Research in the watersheds, May 16-18, 2006 11 p.
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: Download Publication  (1.00 MB)


    The key components of watershed processes are inputs in precipitation, interactions of vegetation, soil and water including evapotranspiration (water yield), overland flow (erosion), and storage and filtering (nutrients), and outputs in streamflow. Fire effects occur at the vegetation-soil interface and can result in altering overland flow and infiltration rate of water. Fire can affect infiltration rates by collapsing soil structure and reducing soil porosity, contributing ash and charcoal residues which can clog soil pores, and raindrop splash can compact soil and firther contribute to loss of soil porosity. An extreme example is the development of hydrophobic soils as observed in the western U.S. following severe wildfire. Watershed responses to fire depend on intensity and severity. Many factors influence fire severity including the quality and quantity of fuels, soil properties, topography, climate, and weather. The most important factors influencing the response to fire are vegetation mortality and the loss of the forest floor which are directly proportional to fire severity. Vegetation mortality reduces nutrient and water uptake, soil stability with root death, and the litter source for forest floor replenishment. The forest floor litter and humus (duQ layers provide soil cover, act as a sponge, and enhance infiltration. Large storm events immediately after a fie can accelerate surface runoff and compact soil.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Elliott, Katherine J.; Vose, James M. 2006. Fire effects on water quality: a synthesis of response regulating factors among contrasting ecosystems. In: Second Interagency Conference on Research in the watersheds, May 16-18, 2006 11 p.

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page