Evaluation of the rusle and disturbed wepp erosion models for predicting soil loss in the first year after wildfire in NW Spain

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Abstract

Severe fire greatly increases soil erosion rates and overland-flow in forest land. Soil erosion prediction models are essential for estimating fire impacts and planning post-fire emergency responses. We evaluated the performance of a) the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE), modified by inclusion of an alternative equation for the soil erodibility factor, and b) the Disturbed WEPP model, by comparing the soil loss predicted by the models and the soil loss measured in the first year after wildfire in 44 experimental field plots in NW Spain. The Disturbed WEPP has not previously been validated with field data for use in NW Spain; validation studies are also very scarce in other areas. We found that both models underestimated the erosion rates. The accuracy of the RUSLE model was low, even after inclusion of a modified soil erodibility factor accounting for high contents of soil organic matter. We conclude that neither model is suitable for predicting soil erosion in the first year after fire in NW Spain and suggest that soil burn severity should be given greater weighting in post-fire soil erosion modelling.

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