Comparison of different methods to measure soil erosion in the Central Ebro Valley




erosion plots, forest fire, infiltration, runoff, rainfall simulator, sediment yield, wood-chips mulch.


Fire is a natural factor of landscape evolution in Mediterranean ecosystems. Due to social and economical changes, wildfires have caused hydrological and geomorphological changes to be more pronounced, resulting in enhanced soil erosion. The study area is located in the Zuera Mountains, near the city of Zaragoza (Spain) in the Middle Ebro Valley. These mountains were affected by two wildfires in 2008 and 2009, burned around 2000 ha and 6000 ha, respectively. Middle Ebro Valley has extreme aridity, which results in a low plant cover and high soil erodibility enhanced by the fire effects. Soil infiltration is one of the properties affected by fire as a consequence of litter and vegetation removal, heating of and changes to the biological, chemical and physical soil properties. The objective was to compare two different methods –rainfall simulations and erosion plots–, to assess soil erosion after forest fires. We compared different measurements with rainfall simulators and erosion plots, applying a woodchip cover –in order to reduce the rain splash effect–, and to measure the erosion reduction. The work showed low sediment rates in both experiments covered with woodchips.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

J. León, Universidad de Zaragoza

Departamento de Geografía y Ordenación del Territorio, Universidad de Zaragoza, Doctor

D. Badía, Universidad de Zaragoza

Dept. of Agricultural Science and Environment. Zaragoza University. Huesca, Spain;


Abad, N., Bautista, S., Blade, C., Caturla, R.N. 2000. Seeding and mulching as erosion control techniques after wildfires in the Valencia region. In Mediterranean Desertification Research Results and Policy Implications, P. Balabanis, D. Peter, A. Ghazi, M. Tsogas (Eds.), Directorate-General Research vol. 2, European Commission, Brussels, pp. 419-429.

Badía, D., Martí, C. 2000. Seeding and mulching treatments as conservation measures of two burned soils in the Central Ebro Valley, NE Spain. Arid Soil Research nd Rehabilitation 13, 219-232.

Badía, D., Martí, C., Aznar, J.M., León, J. 2013. Influence of slope and parent rock on soil genesis and classification in semiarid mountainous environments. Geoderma 193-194, 13-21.

Bautista, S., Bellot, J., Vallejo, V.R. 1996. Mulching treatment for postfire soil conservation in a semiarid ecosystem. Arid Land Research and Management 10, 235-242.

Bautista, S., Robichaud, P.R., Bladé, C. 2009. Post-fire mulching. In Fire effects on soils and restoration strategies, A. Cerdà, P.R. Robichaud (Eds.), Science Publishers, USA, pp. 351- 372.

Bento-Gonçalves, A., Vieira, A., Úbeda, X., Martin, D. 2012. Fire and soils: key concepts and recent avances. Geoderma 191, 3-13. doi:10.1016/j.geoderma.2012.01.004.

Beyers, J.W., Christensen, P. Wohlgemuth, P, Gubert, K. 2006. Effects of postfire mulch treatments on vegetation recovery in the southwestern US. Proceedings Annual Meeting of the ESA, Washington.

Bodí, M.B., Doerr, S.H., Cerdà, A., Mataix-Solera, J. 2012. Hydrological effects of a layer of vegetation ash on underlying wettable and water repellent soil. Geoderma 191, 14-23.

Bodí, M.B., Martín, D.A., Balfour, V.N., Santín, C., Doerr, S.H., Pereira, P., Cerdà, A., Mataix- Solera, J. 2014. Wildland fire ash: Production, composition and eco-hydro-geomorphic effects. Earth-Science Review 130, 103-127.

Bresson, L.M., Boiffin, J. 1990. Morphological characterization of soil crust development stages on an experimental field. Geoderma 47, 301-325.

Calvo, A., Cerdà, A. 1994. An example of the changes in the hydrological and erosional response of soil after a forest fire, Pedralba (Valencia), Spain. In Soil Erosion as a consequence of forest fires, A. Calvo (Ed.), Geoforma Ediciones, Logroño, pp. 99-110.

Cerdà, A., Navarro, R. 1997a. Tasas de erosión en una solana de la Serra Grossa: La costera. Cuadernos de Geografía 59, 27-46.

Cerdà, A., Navarro, R. 1997b. Procesos de erosión en los badlands alicantinos. Investigaciones Geográficas 17, 99-116.

Cerdà, A., Lasanta, T. 2005. Long-term erosional responses after fire in the Central Spanish Pyrenees: 1. Water and sediment yield. Catena 60, 59-80.

Cerdà, A., Doerr, S.H. 2008. The effect of ash and needle cover on surface runoff and erosion in the immediate post-fire period. Catena 74, 256- 263. doi:10.1016/S0341-8162(02)00027-9.

Cerdà, A., Robichaud, P. R. 2009. Fire effects on soils and restoration strategies. Land Reconstruction and Management, Vol. 5, Oxford, pp. 41-295.

Cerdà, A., Ibáñez, S., Calvo, A. 1997. Design and operation of a small and portable rainfall simulator for rugged terrain. Soil Technology 11, 163-170.

Cerdà, A. Giménez-Morera, A., Bodí, M.B. 2009. Soil and water losses from new citrus orchards growing on sloped soils in the western Mediterranean basin. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 34 (13), 1822-1830. DOI: 10.1002/esp.1889.

Cerdà, A., Marcos, E., Llovet, J., Benito, E., Pérez-Cabello, F., Úbeda, X., Jordán, A., Zavala, L.M., Ruiz-Sinoga, D. 2010. La lluvia simulada como herramienta para la investigación del efecto de los incendios forestales sobre los suelos. In Actualización de métodos y técnicas para el estudio de los suelos afectados por incendios forestales, A. Cerdà, A. Jordán (Eds.), Ed. Càtedra de Divulgació de la Ciència, Universitat de València, pp. 45-83.

Connaughton, C.A. 1935. Forest fire and accelerated erosion. Journal of Forestry 33, 751-752. Díaz-Fierros V., F., Benito Rueda, E., Perez Moreira, R. 1987. Evaluation of the U.S.L.E. for the prediction of erosion in burnt forest areas in Galicia (N.W. Spain). Catena 14, 189-199.

Doerr, S.H., Cerdà, A. 2005. The influence of vegetation recovery on soil hydrology and erodibility following fire: an eleven-year investigation. International Journal of Wildland Fire 14 (4), 423-437.

Edeso, J., Merino, A., González, M., Marauri, P. 1998. Manejo de explotaciones forestales y pérdida de suelo en zonas de elevada pendiente del País Vasco. Cuaternario y Geomorfología 12, 105-116.

Fernández, C., Vega, J.A. 2014. Efficacy of bark strands and straw mulching after wildfire in NW Spain: Effects on erosion control and vegetation recovery. Ecological Engineering 63, 50-57.

Fernández, C., Vega, J.A., Gras, J.M., Jiménez, E., Fonturbel, T. 2011. Effectiveness of three post-fire treatments at reducing soil erosion in Galicia (NW Spain). International Journal of Wildland Fire 20, 104-114.

Fister, W., Iserloh, T., Ries, J. B., Schmidt, R.G. 2011. Comparison of rainfall characteristics of a small portable rainfall simulator and a portable wind and rainfall simulator. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie 55 (3), 109-126.

Gimeno, E., Andreu, V., Rubio, J.L. 2000. Changes in organic matter, nitrogen, phosphorus and cations in soil as a result of fire and water erosion in a Mediterranean landscape. European Journal of Soil Science 51, 201-210.

Giovannini, G. 2012. Fire in agricultural and forestal ecosystems: the effects on soil. Edizioni ETS, Pisa, Italy.

González-Pelayo, O., Andreu, V., Gimeno-García, E., Campo, J., Rubio, J.L. 2010. Rainfall influence on plot-scale runoff and soil loss from repeated burning in a Mediterranean-shrub ecosystem, Valencia, Spain. Geomorphology 118 (3), 444-452.

González-Pérez, J.A., González-Vila, F.J., Almendros, G., Knicker, H. 2004. The effect of fire on soil organic matter – a review. Enviroment International 30, 855-870.

Guénon, R., Vennetier, M., Dupuy, N., Roussos, S., Pailler, A., Gros, R. 2013. Trends in recovery of Mediterranean soil chemical properties and microbial activities after infrequent and frequent wildfires. Land Degradation & Development 24 (2), 115-128. DOI: 10.1002/ldr.1109.

Groen, A.H., Woods, S. 2008. Effectiveness of aerial seeding and straw mulch for reducing postwildfire erosion, north-western Montana, USA. International Journal of Wildland Fire 17, 559-571.

Gross, E., Steinblums, I., Ralston, C., Jubas, H. 1989. Emergency Watershed treatments on burned land in southwest Oregon. In Proceedings of the symposium on Fire and Watershed Management. General Technical Report PSW-GTR: 109-114, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Berkeley, California, USA.

Herrero, J., Snyder, R. 1997. Aridity and irrigation in Aragón, Spain. Journal of Arid Environments 35, 535-547.

Hyde, K., Woods, S.W., Donahue, J. 2007. Predicting gully rejuvenation after wildfire using remotely sensed burn severity data. Geomorphology 86, 496-511.

Iserloh, T., Ries, J. B., Cerdà, A., Echeverría, M. T., Fister, W., Geißler, C., Kuhn, N. J., León, F.J., Peters, P., Schindewolf, M., Schmidt, J., Scholten, T., Seeger, M. 2013a. Comparative measurements with seven rainfall s simulators on uniform bare fallow land. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie 57 (1), 11-26.

Iserloh, T., Ries, J.B., Arnáez, J., Boix-Fayos, C., Butzen, V., Cerdà, A., Echeverría, M.T., Fernández-Gálvez, J., Fister, W., Geißler, C., Gómez, J.A., Gómez-Macpherson, H., Kuhn, N.J., Lázaro, R., León, F.J., Martínez-Mena, M., Martínez-Murillo, J.F., Marzen, M., Mingorance, M.D., Ortigosa, L., Peters, P., Regüés, D., Ruiz-Sinoga, J.D., Scholten, T., Seeger, M., Solé-Benet, A., Wengel, R., Wirtz, S. 2013b. European small portable rainfall simulators: A comparison of rainfall characteristics. Catena 110, 100-112.

Keeley, J.E. 2009. Fire intensity, fire severity and burn severity: a brief review and suggests usage. International Journal of Wildland Fire 18, 116-126.

Lasanta, T., García-Ruiz, J.M., Pérez-Rontomé, C., Sancho-Marcén, C. 2000. Runoff and sediment yield in a semi-arid environment: the effect of land management after farmland abandonment. Catena 38, 265-278.

León, J., Seeger, M., Echeverría, M.T., Badía, D., Peters, P., 2012. The effect of the fires on gypseous soil properties: changes of the hydrology and splash resistance. Vol. 14, EGU2012- 11179.

León, J., Echeverría, M.T., Badía, D., Martí, C., Álvarez, C. 2013a. Effectiveness of Wood chips cover at reducing erosion in two contrasted burnt soils. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie Suppl. 57 (1), 27-37.

León, J., Bodí, M.B., Cerdà, A., Badía, D. 2013b. The contrasted response of ash to wetting: The effects of ash type, thickness and rainfall events. Geoderma 209-210, 143-152.

Llovet, J., Josa, R., Vallejo, V.R. 2008. Thermal shock and rain effects on soil surface characteristics: a laboratory approach. Catena 74, 227-234.

Lloret, F., Zedler, P.H. 2009. The effect of forest fires in vegetation. In Fire effects on Soils and Restauration Strategies, A. Cerdà, P.R. Robichaud (Coord.), Enfield, Edit. Science Publishers, pp. 257-295.

Malvar, M., Prats, S., Nunes, J., Keizer, J. 2011. Post-fire overland flow generation and interrill erosion under simulated rainfall in two eucalypt stands in north-central Portugal. Environmental Research 111, 222-236.

Malvar, M.C., Prats, S.A., Keizer, J.J. 2015. Runoff and inter-rill erosion affected by wildfire and pre-fire ploughing in eucalypt plantations of North-Central Portugal. Land Degradation Development. DOI: 10.1002/ldr.2365.

Mataix-Solera, J., Cerdà, A. 2009. Incendios forestales en España. Ecosistemas terrestres y suelos. In Efectos de los incendios forestales sobre los suelos en España: el estado de la cuestión visto por los científicos españoles, A. Cerdà, J.M. Solera (Eds.), Cátedra Divulgación de la Ciencia, Valencia, pp. 25-54.

Mataix-Solera, J., Gómez, I., Navarro-Pedreño, J., Guerrero, C., Moral, R. 2002. Soil organic matter and aggregates affected by wildfire in a Pinus halepensis forest in Mediterranean environment. International Journal of Wildland Fire 11, 107-114.

Mataix-Solera J, Cerdà A, Arcenegui V, Jordán A, Zavala LM. 2011. Fire effects on soil aggregation: A review. Earth-Science Reviews 109, 44-60.

Mayor, A., Bautista, S., Llovet, J., Bellot, J. 2007. Post-fire hydrological and erosional responses of a Mediterranean landscape: seven years of catchment-scale dynamics. Catena 71, 68-75.

Miles, S.R., Haskins, D.M., Ranken, D.W. 1989. Emergency burn rehabilitation; cost, risk and effectiveness. In Proceedings of the symposium on Fire and Watershed Management, General Technical Report PSW-109: 97-102, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Berkeley, California, USA.

Moreno, J.M., Vázquez, A., Vélez, R. 1998. Recent history of forest fires in Spain. In Large forest fires, J.M. Moreno (Ed.), Backhuys, Leiden, Netherlands, pp. 159-185.

Nadal-Romero, E., Lasanta, T., Regüés, D., Lana-Renault, N., Cerdà, A. 2011. Hydrological response and sediment production under different land cover in abandoned farmland fields in a Mediterranean mountain environment. Boletín de la Asociación de Geógrafos Españoles 55, 303-323.

Neary, D.G., Klopatek, C.C., DeBano, L.F., Ffolliot, P. 1999. Fire effects on belowground sustainability: a review and synthesis. Forest Ecology Management 122, 51-71.

Pardini, G., Gispert, M., Dunjó, G. 2004. Relative influence of wildfire on soil properties and erosion processes in different Mediterranean environments in NE Spain. Science Total Environmental 328, 237-246.

Pausas, J.G. 2004. Changes in fire and climate in the Eastern Iberian Peninsula (Mediterranean Basin). Climatic Change 63, 337-350.

Pausas, J.G., Llovet, J., Rodrigo, A., Vallejo, R. 2009. Are wildfires a disaster in the Mediterranean basin? – A review. International Journal of Wildland Fire 17, 713-723.

Pereira, P., Cerdà, A., Úbeda, X., Mataix-Solera, J., Martin, D., Jordán, A., Burguet, M. 2013. Spatial models for monitoring the spatio-temporal evolution of ashes after fire – a case study of a burnt grassland in Lithuania. Solid Earth 4, 153-165.

Poesen, J.W.A. and Nearing, M.A. (Eds.) 1993. Soil surface sealing and crusting. Catena Supplement 24, Catena Verlag, Cremlinge-Destedt, Germany.

Prats, S.A., Malvar, M.C., Simões-Vieira, D.C., MacDonald, L., Keizer, J.J. 2013. Effectiveness of hydromulching to reduce runoff and erosion in a recently burnt pine plantation in central Portugal. Land Degradation & Development. DOI: 10.1002/ldr.2236.

Ramos, M.C., Nacci, S., Pla, I. 2003. Effects of raindrop impact and its relationship with aggregate stability to different disaggregation forces. Catena 53, 365-376.

Riley, K.L., Bendick, R., Hyde, K.D., Gabet, E.J. 2013. Frequency-magnitude distribution of debris flows compiled from global data, and comparison with post-fire debris flows in the western U.S. Geomorphology 191, 118-128.

Rubio, J.L. 1987. Desertificación en la Communidad Valenciana: antecedentes históricos y situación actual de la erosión. Revista Valenciana d’Estudis Autonòmicos 7, 231-258.

Rubio, J.L., Forteza, J., Andreu, V., Cerni, R. 1997. Soil profile characteristics influencing runoff and soil erosion after forest fire: a case study (Valencia, Spain). Soil Technology 11, 67-78.

Robichaud, P.R., Beyers, J.L., Neary, D.G. 2000. Evaluating the effectiveness of post-fire rehabilitation treatments. General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-63, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.

Robichaud, P.R., Rhee, H., Lewis, S.A. 2014. A synthesis of post-fire Burned Area Reports from 1972 to 2009 for western US Forest Service lands: trends in wildfire characteristics and post-fire stabilisation treatments and expenditures. International Journal Wildland Fire 23, 929-944.

Sánchez, J., Mangas, V., Ortiz, C., Bellot, J. 1994. Forest fire effect on soil chemical properties and runoff. Soil erosion as a consequence of forest fires. Geoforma Ediciones, Logroño, pp. 53-65.

Sanroque, P., Rubio, J. 1982. El suelo y los incendios forestales. Diputación de Valencia, Valencia, pp. 57-63.

Seeger, M. 2007. Uncertainty of factors determining runoff and erosion processes as quantified by rainfall simulations. Catena 71, 56-67.

Shakesby, R. 2011. Post-wildfire soil erosion in the Mediterranean: review and future research directions. Earth-Science Review 105, 71-100.

Soler, M., Sala, M. 1990. La erosión producida tras un incendio en un encinar. In Actas de la Iª Reunión Nacional de Geomorfología, M. Gutiérrez, J.L. Peña Monné, M.V. Lozano (Eds.), Instituto de Estudios Turolenses, Teruel, pp. 669-675.

Trabaud, L. 2002. Post-fire vegetation recovery and dynamics in the Mediterranean area. In Fire, Landscape and Biodiversity: an Appraisal of the Effects and Effectiveness, G. Pardini, J. Pinto (Eds.), Universitat de Girona, Diversitas, pp. 39-55.

Úbeda, X., Sala, M. 1998. Variations in runoff and erosion in three areas with different fire intensities. Geookodynamik 19, 179-188.

Vega, J.A., Díaz-Fierros, F. 1987. Wildfire effects on soil erosion. Ecología Mediterránea 13 (4), 119-125.

Vega, J.A., Fernández, C., Fonturbel, T. 2015. Comparing the effectiveness of seeding and mulching + seeding in reducing soil erosion after a high severity fire in Galicia (NW Spain). Ecological Engineering 74, 206-212.

Villar Marcén, J. M. 2006. Biografía de un paisaje. Zuera. ISAC artes gráficas, Zaragoza, pp. 75-92.

Wagenbrenner, J.W., Macdonald, L.H., Rough, D. 2006. Effectiveness of three post-fire rehabilitation treatments in the Colorado Front Range. Hydrological Processes 20, 2989- 3006. doi: 10.1002/HYP.6146.

Wischmeier, W.H., Smith, D.D. 1965. Predicting rainfall-erosion losses from cropland east of the Rocky Mountains. Agricultural Handbook 282, Agricultural Research Service, Department of Agriculture, United States of America.




How to Cite

León J, Badía D, Echeverría M. Comparison of different methods to measure soil erosion in the Central Ebro Valley. CIG [Internet]. 2015 Mar. 17 [cited 2023 Jun. 2];41(1):165-80. Available from: