International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

Effectiveness of aerial seeding and straw mulch for reducing post-wildfire erosion, north-western Montana, USA

Amy H. Groen A and Scott W. Woods A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A The University of Montana, Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.

B Corresponding author. Email:

International Journal of Wildland Fire 17(5) 559-571
Submitted: 28 April 2007  Accepted: 15 October 2007   Published: 3 October 2008


Various methods are available to reduce post-wildfire erosion, but there is limited quantitative information on the relative effectiveness of these techniques. We used rainfall simulations to compare the erosion and runoff rates from adjacent 0.5-m2 plots treated with aerial grass seeding and straw mulch with untreated control plots following the July 2002 Fox Creek Fire in north-west Montana. In the first summer after the fire, plots seeded at a rate of 9 kg ha–1 had a mean of less than 5% ground cover and the seeding treatment had no effect on the rainsplash erosion rate. In contrast, straw mulch application at a rate of 2.24 Mg ha–1 resulted in ~100% ground cover and an 87% reduction in rainsplash erosion relative to the control (P = 0.001). Measurements on a subset of the plots in the second summer after the fire indicated that ground cover in the treatments and the control averaged 39%, and neither treatment provided a significant increase in ground cover or reduction in erosion relative to the control. These results add to the growing weight of evidence that straw mulch application is highly effective in reducing erosion in the first year after fire, whereas grass seeding is often ineffective because of the limited increase in ground cover that it produces.

Additional keywords: burned area emergency response, erosion control, grass seeding, overland flow, post-fire rehabilitation, restoration, runoff.


Funding for the present research was provided by the Montana Water Resource Center through the United States Geological Survey’s 104(b) Water Resources Research program. Anna Birkas, Martin Twer and Mark Flatt assisted with field data collection. The comments of three anonymous reviewers and Dr David Affleck improved the manuscript.


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