Articles | Volume 371
12 Jun 2015
 | 12 Jun 2015

Evaluation of short-term changes of hydrological response in mountainous basins of the Vitim Plateau (Russia) after forest fires based on data analysis and hydrological modelling

O. M. Semenova, L. S. Lebedeva, N. V. Nesterova, and T. A. Vinogradova

Abstract. Twelve mountainous basins of the Vitim Plateau (Eastern Siberia, Russia) with areas ranging from 967 to 18 200 km2 affected by extensive fires in 2003 (from 13 to 78% of burnt area) were delineated based on MODIS Burned Area Product. The studied area is characterized by scarcity of hydrometeorological observations and complex hydrological processes. Combined analysis of monthly series of flow and precipitation was conducted to detect short-term fire impact on hydrological response of the basins. The idea of basin-analogues which have significant correlation of flow with "burnt" watersheds in stationary (pre-fire) period with the assumption that fire impact produced an outlier of established dependence was applied. Available data allowed for qualitative detection of fire-induced changes at two basins from twelve studied. Summer flow at the Amalat and Vitimkan Rivers (22 and 78% proportion of burnt area in 2003, respectively) increased by 40–50% following the fire.The impact of fire on flow from the other basins was not detectable.The hydrological model Hydrograph was applied to simulate runoff formation processes for stationary pre-fire and non-stationary post-fire conditions. It was assumed that landscape properties changed after the fire suggest a flow increase. These changes were used to assess the model parameters which allowed for better model performance in the post-fire period.