Date of Award

8-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

College/School

College of Science and Mathematics

Department/Program

Earth and Environmental Studies

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Gregory Pope

Committee Member

Joshua Galster

Committee Member

Jennifer Callanan

Subject(s)

Forest fires--Environmental aspects, Soils--Pennsylvania--Delaware State Forest

Abstract

Forest fires can affect soil chemistry and soil properties depending on the fire intensity and type of biomass burned, changing the local environment. For this study, soil and ash samples were examined post-fire from the 16-Mile fire event in the Delaware State Forest, Pennsylvania, to understand the pedosphere chemistry within the watershed subbasin. The main goal of this project was to study the major and trace elements of ash and soil samples of the 16-Mile Fire in the burned area and compare to samples upstream and downstream of the watershed sub-basin. Inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy was conducted for major and trace elemental analysis of the samples to determine if a fire signature is present. Calcium, manganese, copper and barium were found at higher concentrations within the fire extent compared to up and downstream of the fire. Copper and barium concentrations show to be fire signatures that are unique to the 16-Mile fire event. Comparing the 2-month sampling to the 8-10-month sampling indicates that the concentrations of copper and barium are remaining within the soil horizons, where in some sites concentrations are moving vertically down through the soil horizons. GIS and RUSLE were used to further model conditions of the fire extent to determine if erosion and runoff would mobilize fire signatures throughout the sub-basin. Results indicate that due to the shallow slopes within the fire extent, along with factors of soil structure, rainfall, slope, and land cover management, erosion is not likely and fire signatures will reside down the soil horizon. Further research is needed to further investigate how long the fire signatures will reside in the soil horizons within this area.

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