Fire Impact on Erosion Rates

Our research focuses on estimating post-fire sediment inputs to several tributaries of the South Fork Salmon River. After severe forest fires in the summer of 2007, heightened landslide, overland flow and debris flow occurrences may have contributed to increase erosion rates. Higher post-fire erosion rates have implications for forest vegetation recovery and aquatic habitat quality; such effects may be indicative of the future impacts of the more frequent and severe forest fires promoted by current climate change.

Research Questions:

  • What is the relative sediment input of landslides, debris flows and overland flow to the channel?
  • How does slope aspect, angle and burn severity affect overland flow erosion rates?
  • How much of the input sediment has been stored in the floodplain? How much has left the basin
  • How do these input rates compare to long-term (decadal to millennial) erosion rates?


  • Several tributaries to the South Fork Salmon River, Payette National Forest, Idaho.
  • Ground mapping of landslide and debris flow deposits and volume eroded.
  • 137Cs and 210Pb profiles of hillslope samples to determine overland flow erosion rates.
Funding Agency:
  • National Science Foundation
  • Rolf Aalto, Department of Geography, University of Exeter