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Water Environ Res. 2014 Apr;86(4):372-81.

Effect of wildfires on physicochemical changes of watershed dissolved organic matter.


Physicochemical characterization of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) provides essential data to describe watershed characteristics after drastic changes caused by wildfires. Post-fire watershed behavior is important for water source selection, management, and drinking water treatment optimization. Using ash and other burned vegetation fragments, a leaching procedure was implemented to describe physicochemical changes to watershed DOC caused by wildfires. Samples were collected after the 2007 and 2009 wildfires near Santa Barbara, California. Substantial differences in size distribution (measured by ultrafiltration), polarity (measured by polarity rapid assessment method), and the origin of leached DOC (measured by fluorescence) were observed between burned and unburned sites. Recently burned ash had 10 times the DOC leaching potential, and was dominated by large size fragments, compared to weathered 2-year-old ash. Charged DOC fractions were found to positively correlate with DOC size, whereas hydrophobic and hydrophilic DOC fractions were not. Proteins were only observed in recently burned ash and were indicative of recent post-fire biological activity.

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