First steps after a fire
Fire removes vegetative groundcover which provides some protection against water and wind erosion. To reduce the likelihood and impact of water erosion on bare ground:
- minimise vehicle and livestock traffic on bare ground: detached soil is much more susceptible to erosion
- check and repair – if necessary – any upslope surface water management structures.
At the break of season:
- defer grazing on pastures until there is at least 50% groundcover and feed on offer reaches 500–800 kilograms of dry matter per hectare
- minimise soil disturbance when sowing a crop; controlled traffic farming is suitable
- establish early cover crops on the most susceptible land; oats are commonly used.
Areas at risk
Areas at greatest risk from water erosion following a fire include:
- steep slopes below firebreaks
- access tracks and rocky areas
- changes of grade in creeklines
- along access tracks where slopes are traversed
- at culverts
- anywhere there is existing or past erosion.
Problems from water erosion after a fire
These problems are mostly the same as for any water erosion:
- sheet, rill and gully erosion
- nutrient loss
- sediment build-up in banks and dams – desilting may be required
- contamination of water supplies with ash and burnt vegetation; see water supply management following a fire for more information
- damage to fences, tracks and other infrastructure.
Being prepared for fire
We recommend that dealing with water erosion after a fire is part of a farm plan that includes fire and whole-farm water management.
For more information see bushfire survival plans for landholders.