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Post-Fire Treatment Effectiveness for Hillslope Stabilization

Post-Fire Treatment Effectiveness for Hillslope Stabilization

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This synthesis of post-fire treatment effectiveness reviews the past decade of research, monitoring, and
product development related to post-fire hillslope emergency stabilization treatments, including erosion barriers,
mulching, chemical soil treatments, and combinations of these treatments. In the past ten years, erosion
barrier treatments (contour-felled logs and straw wattles) have declined in use and are now rarely applied
as a post-fire hillslope treatment. In contrast, dry mulch treatments (agricultural straw, wood strands, wood
shreds, etc.) have quickly gained acceptance as effective, though somewhat expensive, post-fire hillslope
stabilization treatments and are frequently recommended when values-at-risk warrant protection. This change
has been motivated by research that shows the proportion of exposed mineral soil (or conversely, the proportion
of ground cover) to be the primary treatment factor controlling post-fire hillslope erosion. Erosion barrier
treatments provide little ground cover and have been shown to be less effective than mulch, especially during
short-duration, high intensity rainfall events. In addition, innovative options for producing and applying mulch
materials have adapted these materials for use on large burned areas that are inaccessible by road. Although
longer-term studies on mulch treatment effectiveness are on-going, early results and short-term studies have
shown that dry mulches can be highly effective in reducing post-fire runoff and erosion. Hydromulches have
been used after some fires, but they have been less effective than dry mulches in stabilizing burned hillslopes
and generally decompose or degrade within a year.
This synthesis of post-fire treatment effectiveness reviews the past decade of research, monitoring, and
product development related to post-fire hillslope emergency stabilization treatments, including erosion barriers,
mulching, chemical soil treatments, and combinations of these treatments. In the past ten years, erosion
barrier treatments (contour-felled logs and straw wattles) have declined in use and are now rarely applied
as a post-fire hillslope treatment. In contrast, dry mulch treatments (agricultural straw, wood strands, wood
shreds, etc.) have quickly gained acceptance as effective, though somewhat expensive, post-fire hillslope
stabilization treatments and are frequently recommended when values-at-risk warrant protection. This change
has been motivated by research that shows the proportion of exposed mineral soil (or conversely, the proportion
of ground cover) to be the primary treatment factor controlling post-fire hillslope erosion. Erosion barrier
treatments provide little ground cover and have been shown to be less effective than mulch, especially during
short-duration, high intensity rainfall events. In addition, innovative options for producing and applying mulch
materials have adapted these materials for use on large burned areas that are inaccessible by road. Although
longer-term studies on mulch treatment effectiveness are on-going, early results and short-term studies have
shown that dry mulches can be highly effective in reducing post-fire runoff and erosion. Hydromulches have
been used after some fires, but they have been less effective than dry mulches in stabilizing burned hillslopes
and generally decompose or degrade within a year.

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Published by: Joint Fire Science Program on Oct 26, 2012
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United StatesDepartmentof AgricultureForest Service
Rocky MountainResearch Station
General TechnicalReport RMRS-GTR-240 August 2010
Post-Fire TreatmentEffectiveness for Hillslope Stabilization
Peter R. Robichaud, Louise E. Ashmun, and Bruce D. Sims
A SUMMARY OFKNOWLEDGE FROM THE
 
You may order additional copies of this publication by sending your mailinginformation in label form through one of the following media. Please specifythe publication title and number.
Publishing ServicesTelephone
(970) 498-1392
FAX
(970) 498-1122
E-mail
rschneider@fs.fed.us
Web site
http://www.fs.fed.us/rmrs
Mailing Address
Publications DistributionRocky Mountain Research Station240 West Prospect RoadFort Collins, CO 80526
Authors
Peter R. Robichaud
is a Research Engineer with the Air, Wa-tershed, and Aquatics Science Program at the Rocky MountainResearch Station’s Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Moscow,Idaho. He develops and implements research protocols for measuring and predicting post-fire runoff and erosion andpost-fire treatment effectiveness.
Louise E. Ashmun
is a Civil Engineer with the Air, Watershed,and Aquatics Science Program at the Rocky Mountain ResearchStation’s Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Moscow, Idaho. Sheprovides technical support for research and technology transfer on grant-funded projects.
Bruce D. Sims
is the Regional Hydrologist for the NorthernRegion of the USDA Forest Service in Missoula, Montana.His duties include oversight of the Burned Area EmergencyResponse (BAER) program for the Region.Robichaud, Peter R.; Ashmun, Louise E.; Sims, Bruce D. 2010.
Post-fire treatment effectiveness for hill-slope stabilization
. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-240. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture,Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 62 p.
Abstract
This synthesis of post-fire treatment effectiveness reviews the past decade of research, monitoring, andproduct development related to post-fire hillslope emergency stabilization treatments, including erosion barri-ers, mulching, chemical soil treatments, and combinations of these treatments. In the past ten years, erosionbarrier treatments (contour-felled logs and straw wattles) have declined in use and are now rarely appliedas a post-fire hillslope treatment. In contrast, dry mulch treatments (agricultural straw, wood strands, woodshreds, etc.) have quickly gained acceptance as effective, though somewhat expensive, post-fire hillslopestabilization treatments and are frequently recommended when values-at-risk warrant protection. This changehas been motivated by research that shows the proportion of exposed mineral soil (or conversely, the propor-tion of ground cover) to be the primary treatment factor controlling post-fire hillslope erosion. Erosion barrier treatments provide little ground cover and have been shown to be less effective than mulch, especially duringshort-duration, high intensity rainfall events. In addition, innovative options for producing and applying mulchmaterials have adapted these materials for use on large burned areas that are inaccessible by road. Althoughlonger-term studies on mulch treatment effectiveness are on-going, early results and short-term studies haveshown that dry mulches can be highly effective in reducing post-fire runoff and erosion. Hydromulches havebeen used after some fires, but they have been less effective than dry mulches in stabilizing burned hillslopesand generally decompose or degrade within a year.
Keywords:
BAER, contour-felled logs, hydromulch, LEB, straw mulch, PAM, wood shreds, wood strands
Acknowledgments
This synthesis project (Project Number 08-2-1-10) wasfunded by the Joint Fire Sciences Program, a collaborativebetween the U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Departmentof Agriculture, Forest Service that supports fire research. Muchof the research reported herein was funded wholly or in partby the Joint Fire Sciences Program. We are indebted to our reviewers: Jeff Bruggink, Chris Holbeck, Carolyn Napper, andWayne Robbie. They all have wide-ranging experience onpost-fire assessment teams, and their comments significantlyimproved this document and the companion web page (http://forest.moscowfsl.wsu.edu/BAERTOOLS/HillslopeTrt). Wespecifically recognize and thank John Moody, who provided athorough review of the draft document and made suggestionsthat greatly enhanced the focus, content, and organization of this synthesis.
 
i
Contents
Preface.............................................................................................................iiScopeofPost-FireTreatmentEffectivenessforHillslopeStabilization...................................................................iiIntroduction.....................................................................................................1Post-FireTreatmentTypes...................................................................1Post-FireTreatmentEffectivenessandTreatmentPerformance..........2Post-FireHydrologyandErosion....................................................................2FactorsThatImpactPost-FireWatershedResponseandTreatmentEffectiveness.................................................................4Post-FireErosionbyWindandGravity...............................................8ComparingResultsandScaleofMeasurements..................................8ErosionBarrierTreatments............................................................................10ErosionBarrierPerformanceCharacteristics.....................................12ErosionBarrierTreatmentEffectiveness...........................................14MulchTreatments..........................................................................................15DryMulches.......................................................................................16Hydromulches....................................................................................17PerformanceCharacteristicsofMulches...........................................18MulchTreatmentEffectiveness.........................................................24ChemicalSoilSurfaceTreatments.................................................................27PerformanceCharacteristicsofPAMandOtherPolymers................28EffectivenessofPAMandOtherPolymers.......................................29TreatmentCombination.................................................................................29ManagementImplications..............................................................................30Longer-TermTreatmentEffectiveness...............................................30ChoosingTreatments.........................................................................30MonitoringPost-FireTreatmentEffectiveness..................................33Usingthe“BestAvailable”Treatments..............................................33References......................................................................................................33AppendixA:HillslopeTreatmentEffectivenessandPerformanceCharacteristicsSummaryTable.............................................................38AppendixB:ErosionBarrierTreatmentEffectivenessStudies(2000tothepresent)..............................................................................39AppendixC
:
MulchTreatmentEffectivenessStudies(2000tothepresent)..............................................................................48AppendixD:Polyacrylamide(PAM)TreatmentEffectivenessStudies(2000tothepresent)..............................................................................59AppendixE:CombinationTreatmentsEffectivenessStudies(2000topresent)....................................................................................61

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