Biostabilization and erodibility of cohesive sediment deposits in wildfire-affected streams
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The erosion characteristics and bed stability of wildfire-affected stream sediment were measured in an annular flume. Biofilms were grown in the flume on cohesive streambed sediments collected from a wildfire affected stream and a reference undisturbed stream in southern Alberta, Canada. Examined factors that influence sediment erosion, settling and bed stability included applied shear stress, geochemical and physical properties of the sediment, floc structural characteristics and consolidation period (2, 7, 14 days). Erosion characteristics and sediment properties were strongly influenced by wildfire, consolidation period and bed biostabilization. The fire-modified sediment was more resistant to erosion than the reference unburned sediment. Settling velocities were lower in the burned sediment due to higher organic content and porosity. The critical shear stresses for erosion were 1.6 and 1.8 times higher for the burn-associated sediment after 7 and 14 days of consolidation. The differences are related to the greater degree and spatial extent (depth) of biofilm attachment in the burned sediment. Erosion depths were 4-8 times higher in burned sediment as a result of wildfire-associated biostabilization.
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