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Effects of Wildfire Burn on Permafrost Landcover and Catchment Hydrology in Manitoba, Canada
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences.
2019 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Permafrost is a strongly controlling factor on Arctic hydrology due to its effect on ground permeability, and thus surface and ground water flow paths. As wildfires are increasing in occurrence and magnitude in permafrost regions, they may alter the hydrological regime via permafrost thaw and degradation that increases ground permeability. Thus, it is hypothesized that in permafrost regions catchments exposed to severe wildfire burn may display a river discharge behavior different to that of unburned catchments, with reduced maximum and increased minimum flows corresponding to higher infiltration of precipitation and extended sub-surface flow paths.

This study compares the seasonality and magnitude of runoff in severely burned (Odei River) and unburned (Taylor River) catchments in the sporadic permafrost region in the Canadian Shield Taiga. The investigated time span consists of 25 full calendar years with complete daily and monthly river discharge data between 1980 and 2016. They are used in conjunction with burned area data, climate data and landcover data to investigate patterns in hydrology behavior.

An emerging trend is a sharply declining maximum flow and increasing minimum flow relative to precipitation in the burned catchment, indicating an accelerated increase in infiltration and buffer capacity of the soil relative to the unburned catchment. Over the entire period the apparent annual catchment storage change is decreasing in both catchments, but at a 115% faster rate in the burned catchment despite being exposed to ~1.5 C lower mean annual temperature, a factor that likely increases the rate of climate-driven aggradation of permafrost in the contrasting unburned catchment.

The discrepancy found in catchment streamflow regime between the burned and unburned catchment and its alignment with the suggested permafrost disturbance effects from previous studies suggest that streamflow may serve as a useful and resource efficient indicator of wildfire-driven permafrost degradation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
Keywords [en]
wildfire, permafrost, catchment hydrology
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-385405OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-385405DiVA, id: diva2:1324048
Subject / course
Earth science
Educational program
Bachelor Programme in Earth Science
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2019-06-13 Created: 2019-06-13 Last updated: 2019-06-13Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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