Post-fire Sediment Retention to Enhance Watershed Resilience to Wildfire

Beaver-constructed dams create ponds of water where fine sediments and nutrients are stored. In areas burned by wildfire, beaver ponds likely play an outsized role in storing sediment and burned organic material that is eroded during post-fire rainstorms, limiting the degrading downstream effects of fire on water quality. This project will assess sediment deposition in beaver ponds and wet meadows burned in the 2020 Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires. Ponds will be probed and sediment cores will be collected to quantify the sediment volume and assess composition; topographic surveys will be completed of the pond area; dam structure, condition and positioning in relation to other ponds will be documented; and burn severity and vegetation regrowth will be mapped. Working closely with faculty and Extension mentors, and graduate students from Geosciences and Civil Engineering, the intern will participate in field data collection, data processing, and analysis. Results of this study will contribute important information on sediment accumulation in beaver ponds where data on sediment retention in burned watersheds is lacking. Finally, this information will be used to support post-fire restoration to enhance watershed resilience to fires.

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