iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Evaluation of hydrological and erosive effects at the basin scale in relation to the severity of forest fires

Giuseppe Coschignano, Antonino Nicolaci, Ennio Ferrari   , Francesco Cruscomagno, Francesco Iovino

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 12, Issue 5, Pages 427-434 (2019)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor2878-012
Published: Sep 01, 2019 - Copyright © 2019 SISEF

Research Articles

This study aimed to assess the hydrological and erosive effects of different levels of the fire severity in the drainage basin of the Trionto River (Calabria, southern Italy), which was partially burned by intense fires during the summer 2017. The analysis focused on the identification of wildfire areas using a supervised classification of remote sensing images with the minimum distance algorithm. The level of severity of each fire was then discriminated based on a procedure proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and adapted to the study area. To evaluate how wildfire occurrence affects the hydrological behaviour at the basin scale, the SCS-Curve Number model was used to document pre- and post-fire conditions in relation with the level of fire severity. Finally, the influence on erosion was analysed for analogous conditions at the basin scale using the RUSLE equation. The effects on hydrological balance and soil loss were evaluated by comparing the pre-fire value with three different post-fire scenarios: (a) different levels of severity on the surface covered by the fire (real case); (b) maximum level of severity on the surface covered by the fire; (c) total loss of the canopy and formation of a hydrophobic layer on the surface soil. The results confirmed that the level of severity of the forest fires, combined with climatic factors, morphological conditions, and the pedological characteristics of the basin, significantly influence changes to the hydrology and rates of erosion. Moreover, these impacts proved to be mainly dependent on the consequent, often notable, heterogeneity in the spatial distribution of burned areas with different severity.


Forest Fire Severity, Hydrological Impacts, Soil Loss Estimation, Remote Sensing

Authors’ address

Giuseppe Coschignano
Antonino Nicolaci
Ennio Ferrari 0000-0002-4035-073X
Francesco Cruscomagno
Francesco Iovino 0000-0002-7000-255X
Department of Computer Engineering, Modeling, Electronics, and Systems Science - DIMES, University of Calabria, via P. Bucci 41C, I-87036 Rende, CS (Italy)

Corresponding author

Ennio Ferrari


Coschignano G, Nicolaci A, Ferrari E, Cruscomagno F, Iovino F (2019). Evaluation of hydrological and erosive effects at the basin scale in relation to the severity of forest fires. iForest 12: 427-434. - doi: 10.3832/ifor2878-012

Academic Editor

Angelo Nolè

Paper history

Received: Jun 02, 2018
Accepted: Jun 12, 2019

First online: Sep 01, 2019
Publication Date: Oct 31, 2019
Publication Time: 2.70 months

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