Forest fires are increasing in frequency and intensity in the western United States. Researchers at the University of California, Davis evaluated the effects of wildfire on the molecular transformation of nitrogen. Wildfires may affect water quality by potentially altering the chemistry and quantity of dissolved nitrogen and dissolved organic matter, causing adverse effects on both aquatic ecosystems and human health. Results indicated that potential pollutants are highly dependent on wildfire temperature and oxygen availability; however, elevated pollutant loads were especially pronounced in the first year following wildfire. Downstream water managers use this information to address reservoir eutrophication potential. As wildfires are expected to become more frequent and intensive due to climate change, understanding wildfire impacts on water quality are important to guiding watershed management and post-fire remediation actions.
NIFA supports this research through Hatch Act Funds.
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