10th International Conference on Geomorphology
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Long-term effects of wildfire on rock weathering and soil stoniness in the Mediterranean landscapes 

Nurit Shtober-Zisu and Lea Wittenberg
Nurit Shtober-Zisu and Lea Wittenberg
  • University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel (nshtober@research.haifa.ac.il)

Rock fragments in soil and on the soil surface affect key soil hydrological processes, including water repellency, thermal properties physical degradation, erosion, and productivity. The severe wildfire at Mt. Carmel, Israel, in 2010, caused massive destruction of carbonate rocks. The thermal shock caused extreme exfoliation, producing large and flat clasts, affecting rocks to a depth of up to 20 cm. A decade after the fire, most flakes and spalls disappeared from the rock outcrops and adjacent soils. From these observations, this study pursued two objectives: (a) to monitor and analyze the spatio-temporal distribution of the disintegrated flakes 10 years after the fire and (b) to test the hypothesis that fires contribute to increased soil stoniness via physical and chemical flake erosion. This research showed that after a decade, most of the spalled surface on the burned outcrops was lost, broken down and pulverized, exposing new rock surfaces to atmospheric and weathering processes. The most prominent effects were changes in surface stoniness on the rendzina soils over the chalks, while there was less impact on the dolomite and limestone samples. The stoniness of the non-burned chalk was 23-39% and increased significantly to 69-86% in the burned area. Chalk erosion produced large (>16 mm, median 8-16 mm) and abundant gravel, suggesting fragmentation of large spalls, and particles that lost their bladed shapes becoming oblate and equant. While earlier works suggested that increasing rock fragment cover is often associated with the removal of fine particles, our results showed a substantial increase in rock fragments due to fire-induced exfoliation of rock surfaces, leading to long-term changes in soil properties. We therefore propose that the size, shape, and spatial distribution of rock fragments should be considered when examining the effects of rock fragments on hydrological and geomorphological processes or on post-fire soil rehabilitation.

How to cite: Shtober-Zisu, N. and Wittenberg, L.: Long-term effects of wildfire on rock weathering and soil stoniness in the Mediterranean landscapes , 10th International Conference on Geomorphology, Coimbra, Portugal, 12–16 Sep 2022, ICG2022-169, https://doi.org/10.5194/icg2022-169, 2022.