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Effects of Prescribed Burn on Nutrient and Dissolved Organic Matter Characteristics in Peatland Shallow Groundwater

Abstract

Wildfires are a common disturbance in boreal regions and have the potential to affect the waterborne export of organic matter and nutrients from burned catchments. To understand the effect of fire on shallow groundwater chemistry in a forested peatland in northern Alberta, Canada, shallow groundwater monitoring wells were sampled before and after a prescribed burn. The samples were collected from control and treatment wells between May and August 2019. The results indicate no differences in dissolved organic matter concentration and chemical composition between wells in burned and unburned sections but substantially increased nutrient concentrations were found in the burned section. Here, the levels of phosphorus increased and did not return to pre-fire levels at the end of the monitoring period, while the levels of inorganic nitrogen increased and returned to pre-fire levels within a few months. With increasing wildfire activity, or as a result of prescribed burns in the Boreal Plains, we may see implications for downstream water quality, including lake trophic status.

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Citation

Orlova, J.; Olefeldt, D.; Yasinski, J.H.; Anderson, A.E. "Effects of Prescribed Burn on Nutrient and Dissolved Organic Matter Characteristics in Peatland Shallow Groundwater." Fire 2020, 3, 53. DOI: 10.3390/fire3030053

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