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Risk of post-fire metal mobilization into surface water resources: a review

Joji Abraham, Kim Dowling, Singarayer Florentine



Highlights.
Forest catchment supply high quality water to a number of communities around the world.
Forest fire release sequestered metals from soil organic matter and vegetation.
Post-fire erosion rapidly transports these metals to downstream soil and water bodies.
Their deposition in the water bodies affects the water quality and aquatic biota.
This metal contamination may reach to human being as a consumer.

Abstract. One of the significant economic benefits to communities around the world of having pristine forest catchments is the supply of substantial quantities of high quality potable water. This supports a saving of around US$ 4.1 trillion per year globally by limiting the cost of expensive drinking water treatments and provision of unnecessary infrastructure. Even low levels of contaminants specifically organics and metals in catchments when in a mobile state can reduce these economic benefits by seriously affecting the water quality. Contamination and contaminant mobility can occur through natural and anthropogenic activities including forest fires. Moderate to high intensity forest fires are able to alter soil properties and release sequestered metals from sediments, soil organic matter and fragments of vegetation. In addition, the increase in post-fire erosion rate by rainfall runoff and strong winds facilitates the rapid transport of these metals downslope and downstream. The subsequent metal deposition in distal soil and water bodies can influence surface water quality with potential impacts to the larger ecosystems inclusive of negative effects on humans. This is of substantial concern as 4 billion hectares of forest catchments provide high quality water to global communities. Redressing this problem requires quantification of the potential effects on water resources and instituting rigorous fire and environmental management plans to mitigate deleterious effects on catchment areas. This paper is a review of the current state of the art literature dealing with the risk of post-fire mobilization of the metals into surface water resources. It is intended to inform discussion on the preparation of suitable management plans and policies during and after fire events in order to maintain potable water quality in a cost-effective manner. In these times of climate fluctuation and increased incidence of fires, the need for development of new policies and management frameworks are of heighted significance.


Science of The Total Environment, Vol. 599-600 (December 2017), pp. 1740-1755, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.05.096 
Key: INRMM:14377206

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