Predicting the potential impact of forest fires on runoff and sediment loads using a distributed hydrological modeling approach

Nasirzadehdizaji R., AKYÜZ D. E.

ECOLOGICAL MODELLING, vol.468, 2022 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 468
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2022.109959
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded, Scopus, Academic Search Premier, PASCAL, Aerospace Database, Aquatic Science & Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA), BIOSIS, CAB Abstracts, Communication Abstracts, Environment Index, Metadex, Pollution Abstracts, Public Affairs Index, Veterinary Science Database, Civil Engineering Abstracts
  • Keywords: Wildfire, Land use change, SWAT hydrological model, Erosion, Sediment yield, Watershed management, SOIL-EROSION, WATER, YIELD, SWAT, WILDFIRES, RATES


Forest fires profoundly affect the nature of watershed responses to precipitation, increases in runoff rate and volume, and post-fire sediment discharge. A post-fire watershed assessment to identify potential trouble spots for soil erosion and flooding can help land managers for decision-making on deploy mitigation, remediation measures, and restoration action plans. Predicting the potential impact of fires on runoff and soil erosion requires distributed hydrological modeling methods. This study used the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), a rainfall-runoff model, to investigate the hydrological consequences of forest fires and their impact on sediment load under different burnt scenarios. For the pre-fire (baseline) scenario, the watershed is calibrated by using the measured discharge and suspended sediment concentration data from the weather station during the time step to estimate post-fire changes at the sub-catchment scale. The total water and sediment yield for the selected sub catchment in the post-fire scenario with the highest spatial distribution of forest fire, due to the excessive surface runoff (an increase of 14.5%) increased significantly, resulted in 6.5 times increase in sediment yield. The results obtained from the study indicate a significant increase in sediment transport into the stream in the post fire scenario. A large volume of soil losses occurred during the time step. In contrast, due to removing trees and vegetation from the ground, less evapotranspiration and infiltration occurred in selected sub-catchment areas after forest fires. In terms of watershed management, understanding the consequences of forest fires on hydrological services will be an effective method for sediment budget control. Therefore, applying the rainfall-runoff and erosion models for the watershed with developing plausible forest fire scenarios can be a productive method to deal with the threats and hydrological risks such as soil erosion and sediment transfer to the downstream environment.