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Is wood strand mulching a good alternative to helimulching to mitigate the risk of soil erosion and favour the recovery of vegetation in NW Spain?

Abstract

Slope stabilization treatments like mulching are commonly used to reduce runoff and erosion after high severity wildfires. Agricultural straw is the most common material although it is susceptible to be blown away by the wind or introduce non-native plants. Although these limitations do not apply to wood-based mulch, this material has not been widely tested in the field. We compared the efficacy of two types of mulch for reducing soil erosion and evaluated its effects on vegetation recovery during the first two years after wildfire. The treatments were: straw helimuching (3.0–3.5 Mg ha−1), ground-applied wood strand mulching (11 Mg ha−1) and control (no mulch). During the first year after wildfire, the mean sediment yield in the control plots was 11 Mg ha−1. In this period, the respective mean sediment yields in the wood strand mulched plots were significantly lower than in the control plots (1.6 Mg ha−1) but higher than in the straw mulched plots (0.5 Mg ha−1). Soil erosion decreased during the second year after wildfire in all cases, while vegetation cover and soil penetration resistance and soil shear strength increased. Neither of the mulching treatments significantly affected the recovery of vegetation cover or species composition. The results indicate the feasibility of wood strand mulch to effectively reduce soil erosion after the fire, with no detrimental effects on vegetation recovery. However, the amount of material required to ensure the protection of the soil, together with difficulties to be applied, may limit its widespread use as a post-fire soil stabilization option.

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Acknowledgements

The study was funded by the European Union Interreg-Sudoe program through project EPyRIS (SOE2/P5/E0811), the Plan de Mejora e Innovación Forestal de Galicia (2010–2020) and INDITEX. We are grateful to everyone who helped with fieldwork, particularly José Gómez, Jesús Pardo, Emilia Puga, and Elías Blanco. The authors would like to thank the editor and reviewers for their comments. The experiments comply with the current laws in Spain.

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Correspondence to Cristina Fernández.

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Fernández, C., Vega, J.A. Is wood strand mulching a good alternative to helimulching to mitigate the risk of soil erosion and favour the recovery of vegetation in NW Spain?. Landscape Ecol Eng 17, 233–242 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11355-020-00439-2

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Keywords

  • Wildfire
  • Soil erosion
  • Helimulching
  • Wood strand
  • Vegetation recovery