Long-term effects of wildfire on rock weathering and soil stoniness in the Mediterranean landscapes

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Abstract

The severe wildfire at Mt. Carmel, Israel, in 2010, caused massive destruction of carbonate rocks. The thermal shock caused extreme exfoliation, producing large and flat clasts, affecting rocks to a depth of up to 20 cm. A decade after the fire, most flakes and spalls disappeared from the rock outcrops and adjacent soils. From these observations, this study pursued two objectives: (a) to monitor and analyze the spatio-temporal distribution of the disintegrated flakes 10 years after the fire and (b) to test the hypothesis that fires contribute to increased soil stoniness via physical and chemical flake erosion. The studied area included five lithostratigraphic units composed of chalk, limestone, and dolomite. The Schmidt Hammer test showed that after a decade, most of the spalled surface on the burned outcrops was lost, exposing new rock surfaces to atmospheric and weathering processes. The spalls and flakes were broken down and pulverized. The most prominent effects were changes in surface stoniness on the rendzina soils over the chalks, while there was less impact on the dolomite and limestone samples. The stoniness of the non-burned chalk was 23–39% and increased significantly to 69–86% in the burned area. Chalk erosion produced large (>16 mm, median 8–16 mm) and abundant gravel, suggesting fragmentation of large spalls, and particles that lost their bladed shapes becoming oblate and equant. While earlier works suggested that increasing rock fragment cover is often associated with the removal of fine particles, our results showed a substantial increase in rock fragments due to fire-induced exfoliation of rock surfaces, leading to long-term changes in soil properties. We therefore propose that the size, shape, and spatial distribution of rock fragments should be considered when examining the effects of rock fragments on hydrological and geomorphological processes or on post-fire soil rehabilitation.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number143125
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume762
DOIs
StatePublished - 25 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Exfoliation
  • Fire effects
  • Mediterranean soils
  • Spalling
  • Stoniness
  • Weathering

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry

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