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The effect of a wildfire on stream water quality and catchment water yield in a tropical savanna excluded from fire for 10 years (Kakadu National Park, North Australia)

Townsend, Simon A. and Douglas, Michael M. (2004). The effect of a wildfire on stream water quality and catchment water yield in a tropical savanna excluded from fire for 10 years (Kakadu National Park, North Australia). Water Research,38(13):3051-3058.

Document type: Journal Article
Citation counts: Scopus Citation Count Cited 17 times in Scopus Article | Citations

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Title The effect of a wildfire on stream water quality and catchment water yield in a tropical savanna excluded from fire for 10 years (Kakadu National Park, North Australia)
Author Townsend, Simon A.
Douglas, Michael M.
Journal Name Water Research
Publication Date 2004
Volume Number 38
Issue Number 13
ISSN 0043-1354   (check CDU catalogue  open catalogue search in new window)
Scopus ID 2-s2.0-3142720412
Start Page 3051
End Page 3058
Total Pages 8
Place of Publication Oxford, UK
Publisher Elsevier
Field of Research 0501 - Ecological Applications
0799 - Other Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences
0907 - Environmental Engineering
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DEST)
Abstract The wet/dry tropics of the Australian savannas are particularly prone to fire due to the highly seasonal rainfall and accumulation of grassy fuels. The effect of an early dry season wildfire (May, 1998) on the water quality of a seasonally flowing stream (December-June) was examined for a lowland savanna forest in Kakadu National Park (northern Australia) which had remained unburnt for 10 years. The water quality variables assessed were: total and volatile suspended sediment, phosphorus, nitrogen, iron and manganese. Compared to three years of pre-fire water quality data and 5 years of stream flow data, there was no detectable impact of the wildfire on the volume of stream flow, mean concentrations and the total mass transported by the stream for each water quality variable, except possibly nitrogen. The limited effect on water quality is attributed primarily to the timing of the wildfire and the low intensity relative to fires later in the dry season (September). The retention of canopy cover and the accumulation of leaf litter following the wildfire, and the catchment's gently undulating terrain all contributed to the negligible impact on water quality. Early dry season fires appear to be a viable management option for reducing accumulated fuel loads and hence reducing the risk of destructive wildfires later in the dry season.
Keywords erosion
vegetation cover
riparian vegetation
loads
hydrology
savanna
riparian zones
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2004.04.009   (check subscription with CDU E-Gateway service for CDU Staff and Students  check subscription with CDU E-Gateway in new window)
 
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