Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Reclaiming the Land After a Forest Fire

23.12.2011
TAU researchers use organic polymer to protect scorched soil from erosion

Wildfires cause tragic losses to life, property, and the environment. But even after the fire rages, the damage is far from done. Without vegetation, bare, burnt soil lies vulnerable to erosion, which can impede efforts towards natural forest regeneration.

Now Assaf Inbar, a graduate student at Tel Aviv University's Porter School of Environmental Studies, together with his supervisors Prof. Marcelo Sternberg of the Department of Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants, Dr.Meni Ben-Hur of the Volcani Center and Dr. Marcos Lado of the University of La Coruña, Spain, have studied a new soil protection procedure that may significantly reduce erosion in areas ravaged by forest fires. Working with an organic polymer originally used in agriculture, Inbar and his supervisors have tested their method in the lab and also in Birya forest in Israel, large parts of which have been burnt by fire.

Protecting the soil from erosion, says Inbar, is vital for the quick restoration of the vegetation. And this method can be cheaper than current solutions, such as creating log barriers or mulching, a process in which the ground is covered with woody chips or straw.

The research was presented at the Israel Society of Ecology & Environmental Sciences Annual Conference in 2010 and at a COST–European Cooperation in Science and Technology Conference in 2009.

Holding on to the soil

Following a wildfire, soil often erodes because vegetation is burnt and the soil remains bare. Deprived of the protection from the elements that vegetation provides, soil can't absorb intense rains, causing run-off. "If water cannot penetrate the soil, it flows on top — taking the soil with it," says Inbar. The danger is especially great in forests with steep slopes and shallow soil. Once significant amounts of soil wash away, it is difficult to reforest the area.

The researchers turned to the anionic polymer Polyacrylamide (PAM), widely used in agriculture to prevent soil erosion. They tested the polymer on samples of burnt soils both in the lab, using a rainfall simulator, and out in the field under natural rainfall, using run-off plots in an area of Birya Forest that had been exposed to a moderate wildfire. The run-off plots were placed on a 40-degree slope and outfitted with a funnel at the bottom to collect run-off and sediments, measured after every rainstorm.

In both simulated and natural rainstorms, the burnt soils remained much more stable with the addition of the PAM than without, reports Inbar. With the addition of the polymer, applied in granules of about 110 pounds every 2.5 acres, soil erosion was reduced by 50 percent.

Helping the forest to bloom again

At just under $1.50 dollars per pound, PAM granules can be an affordable alternative to mulching, which sometimes requires application by helicopter, and to log barriers, which requires the effort of many workers and heavy machinery. What's more, the non-toxic PAM is safe for existing vegetation.

The researchers have tested the soil's ability to nurture vegetation with the addition of the polymer, and saw encouraging results. They used wheat as a model for annual plants that sprout during the rainy season in areas that had been affected by fire. The polymer had no negative impact on the growth of the wheat, concludes Inbar, who says the researchers' next step is to test different soils, the interaction between the polymer and ash, and the effectiveness of this treatment in larger areas.

George Hunka | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.aftau.org

Further reports about: Conference Ecology Reclaiming environmental risk soil erosion

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New research recovers nutrients from seafood process water
31.10.2018 | Chalmers University of Technology

nachricht Plant Hormone Makes Space Farming a Possibility
17.10.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Massive impact crater from a kilometer-wide iron meteorite discovered in Greenland

15.11.2018 | Earth Sciences

When electric fields make spins swirl

15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Discovery of a cool super-Earth

15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>