Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Experimental Fire Provides Knowledge About Damage After Forest Fires

Date:
March 11, 2009
Source:
Wageningen University and Research Centre
Summary:
An experimental fire that was deliberately set in Portugal has provided researchers in the Netherlands with the first information about the soil erosion that occurs after forest fires. A research team set fire to 10 ha of heathland under controlled conditions. The experiment is not only important for areas in the Mediterranean that have burned or are threatened with fire, but also for Australia, where it is expected that the drinking water supply will be threatened following the recent forest fires.

Smoke and air are attracted towards the centre of the fire.
Credit: Photo copyright Hans de Herder

An experimental fire that was deliberately set in Portugal last Friday has provided Wageningen University researchers with the first information about the soil erosion that occurs after forest fires. A research team set fire to 10 ha of heathland under controlled conditions.

The experiment is not only important for areas in the Mediterranean that have burned or are threatened with fire, but also for Australia, where it is expected that the drinking water supply will be threatened following the recent forest fires. The first measurements in Portugal have shown that the flames reached searing temperatures of up to 900 °C.

PhD student Cathelijne Stoof of Wageningen University is studying what happens to the soil following a forest fire. This knowledge should provide techniques to prevent the ensuing erosion and floods. Part of the study concerns an experimental fire, where an area of 10 ha (equivalent to 15 football fields) in central Portugal was deliberately burned; this is the first experimental fire at such a large scale. The Valtorto research terrain is located near Goνs in central Portugal.

Every year in the Mediterranean region, fierce forest fires totally destroy the vegetation in large areas. The first rains following a fire often lead to severe floods and soil erosion, which threaten the livestock and possessions of the population. Prevention of erosion can lead to more rapid recovery of the burned forest and agricultural areas.

The research team installed dozens of sensors and instruments to map out the effects of the fire in the steep experimental terrain. During the fire – which was monitored by three teams of firemen – the temperatures in the soil and the flames were registered. Flame temperatures frequently reached about 550 degrees, with flames rising more than 2 metres. Because the area was burned from both sides at the same time, the fire reached its climax when both fire fronts joined. The temperature rose to 900°C and the flames rose to more than 10 meters. At this point, the amount of heat generated was so great that the smoke and air from the surroundings was sucked into the fire.

The first measurements at Valtorto were made in 2007. From that point, instruments have measured the rainfall, the quantity of precipitation taken up by the vegetation, the soil moisture content and the degree of erosion on the hillsides. An important indicator is the resistance that water encounters as it flows down a slope. As this quantity becomes smaller, the rate of flow increases, and a hillside erodes more quickly. The measurements will be continued for at least two more years.

Australia

The recent uncontrolled, extremely hot forest fires and Australia emphasise the relevance of the research of the Wageningen PhD student Cathelijne Stoof: "Following the severe fires near Sydney a few years ago, there were major problems with the supply of drinking water which continued for a long time, because the reservoirs were flooded with eroded sediment. Melbourne is also going to have this problem in the future. This city relies entirely on surface water for its drinking water supply, and there is no water purification system."

The research in Portugal is part of the EU project Desire, in which researchers from around the world are searching for methods to counteract desertification. The participants in the experimental fire research – Escola Superior Agrαria de Coimbra in Portugal, Swansea University in the UK and Wageningen University –are working together to prevent land degradation and to restore degraded areas.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wageningen University and Research Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Experimental Fire Provides Knowledge About Damage After Forest Fires." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226110816.htm>.
Wageningen University and Research Centre. (2009, March 11). Experimental Fire Provides Knowledge About Damage After Forest Fires. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226110816.htm
Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Experimental Fire Provides Knowledge About Damage After Forest Fires." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226110816.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) — An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) — Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins