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Effects of Wildfires and Ash Leaching on Stream Chemistry in the Santa Ynez Mountains of Southern California

Swindle, Carl and Shankin-Clarke, Parker and Meyerhof, Matthew and Carlson, Jean and Melack, John (2021) Effects of Wildfires and Ash Leaching on Stream Chemistry in the Santa Ynez Mountains of Southern California. Water, 13 (17). Art. No. 2402. ISSN 2073-4441. doi:10.3390/w13172402.

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Wildfires can change ecosystems by altering solutes in streams. We examined major cations in streams draining a chaparral-dominated watershed in the Santa Ynez Mountains (California, USA) following a wildfire that burned 75 km² from July 8 to October 5, 2017. We identified changes in solute concentrations, and postulated a relation between these changes and ash leached by rainwater following the wildfire. Collectively, K⁺ leached from ash samples exceeded that of all other major cations combined. After the wildfire, the concentrations of all major cations increased in stream water sampled near the fire perimeter following the first storm of the season: K⁺ increased 12-fold, Na⁺ and Ca²⁺ increased 1.4-fold, and Mg²⁺ increased 1.6-fold. Our results suggested that the 12-fold increase in K⁺ in stream water resulted from K⁺ leached from ash in the fire scar. Both C and N were measured in the ash samples. The low N content of the ash indicated either high volatilization of N relative to C occurred, or burned material contained less N.

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Swindle, Carl0000-0002-8706-9398
Additional Information:© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( Received: 8 July 2021; Accepted: 28 August 2021; Published: 31 August 2021. Jennifer Harkness measured major cations in water from Rattlesnake Creek. The MRL Shared Experimental Facilities are supported by the MRSEC Program of the NSF (Award No. DMR 1720256), a member of the NSF-funded Materials Research Facilities Network ( We appreciate the support of Carla D’Antonio for use of the CHN analyzer in her lab. The base map for Figure 1 was obtained from the OpenStreetMap Foundation ( (accessed on 10 February 2021)). This research was supported by the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research program (Grant No. OCE-123277) and by a fellowship from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The work of Carl Swindle was supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (Grant No. DGE-1745301). Author Contributions: Conceptualization, C.S. and J.M.; data curation, C.S. and P.S.-C.; formal analysis, C.S., P.S.-C. and M.M.; funding acquisition, J.M.; investigation, C.S., P.S.-C. and J.M.; methodology, C.S. and J.M.; software, C.S. and P.S.-C.; supervision, J.C. and J.M.; validation, C.S. and J.C.; visualization, C.S., P.S.-C. and J.C.; writing—original draft, C.S. and P.S.-C.; Writing—review and editing, C.S., P.S.-C., M.M., J.C. and J.M. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript. The authors declare no conflict of interest. Data Availability Statement: The data presented in this paper can be found at (accessed on 10 February 2021).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
David and Lucile Packard FoundationUNSPECIFIED
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipDGE-1745301
Subject Keywords:major cations; potassium; stream chemistry; fire; ash
Issue or Number:17
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210930-221726071
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Official Citation:Swindle, C.; Shankin-Clarke, P.; Meyerhof, M.; Carlson, J.; Melack, J. Effects of Wildfires and Ash Leaching on Stream Chemistry in the Santa Ynez Mountains of Southern California. Water 2021, 13, 2402.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:111144
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:04 Oct 2021 20:39
Last Modified:04 Oct 2021 20:59

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