Comparison of the effectiveness of needle cast and straw helimulching for reducing soil erosion after wildfire in NW Spain

  • Cristina FernándezEmail author
  • José A. Vega
  • Teresa Fontúrbel
Sediments, Sec 3 • Hillslope and River Basin Sediment Dynamics • Research Article



Soil erosion is one of the most detrimental consequences of forest fires. The present study aimed to compare the effectiveness of helimulching and needle cast for reducing soil loss after wildfire in NW Spain.

Materials and methods

Sediment yields were determined during the first 2 years after fire in 30 plots (80 m2) established in an area affected by wildfire in the summer of 2015. Thus, 10 plots were established for monitoring each of the following treatments: combusted canopy, combusted canopy + helimulching and scorched canopy. The effect of each type of treatment on soil erosion was tested using a general linear mixed model.

Results and discussion

Immediately after helimulching, the mean soil cover was 90%, whereas the fallen needles from the scorched trees totally covered the burned soil. Soil erosion was significantly higher in the combusted canopy treatment than that in the combusted canopy + helimulching and scorched canopy treatments. The latter two treatments yielded similar results (0.3 and 0.5 Mg ha−1, respectively). The similarity in effectiveness is probably due to the similar initial degree of soil cover provided by both treatments.


Needle cast from totally scorched crowns significantly reduced soil erosion after wildfire. Helimulching resembled the effects of the litter fallen from the scorched trees with a similar reduction in soil loss.


Helimulching Needle cast Soil burn severity Soil erosion Wildfire 



We are grateful to everyone who helped with fieldwork, in particular, José Gómez, Emilia Puga and Jesús Pardo.

Funding information

The study was funded by the National Institute of Agricultural Research of Spain (INIA) through project RTA2014-00011-C06-02, cofunded by FEDER and the Plan de Mejora e Innovación Forestal de Galicia (2010-2020) and INDITEX.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Investigación Forestal-LourizánPontevedraSpain

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