The effect of the ‘Las Maquinas’ wildfire of 2017 on the hydrologic balance of a high conservation value Hualo (Nothofagus glauca (Phil.) Krasser) forest in central Chile
Forest Ecology and Management
School of Science / Centre for Ecosystem Management
© 2020 Elsevier B.V. The large wildfires of January 2017 burned more than 500,000 ha, including areas of high conservation value native forest, in central Chile. Runoff, streamflow and water balance were measured in a native forest catchment for 7 years before and 2 years after the fires. The annual peak flows and runoff coefficients decreased after the fire as did summer flows and total streamflow. These reductions in flow were despite rainfall being higher in the two years after the fire than in the two years before the fire. The forest re-sprouted vigorously after the fire and evapotranspiration in the second year after the fire was approximately two thirds of the rate before the fire. While the forest water use is recovering rapidly, streamflow in the two years after the fire was reduced relative to the seven years before the fire. In the two years after the fires, more than 50% of rainfall is not accounted for by either evapotranspiration or by streamflow. Potential explanations for this gap in the water balance include recovery in storage after the fire and increased bypass flow below the measuring weirs.