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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Controlled Burning of Forest Detritus Altering Spectroscopic Characteristics and Chlorine Reactivity of Dissolved Organic Matter: Effects of Temperature and Oxygen Availability.

  • Author(s): Wang, Jun-Jian
  • Dahlgren, Randy A
  • Chow, Alex T
  • et al.

Forest fires occur with increasing frequency and severity in the western United States, potentially altering the chemistry and quantity of dissolved organic matter (DOM) and disinfection byproduct (DBP) precursors exported from forested watersheds. However, little is known concerning effects of the fire triangle (heat, oxygen, and fuel) on DOM alteration. Using detritus from Pinus ponderosa and Abies concolor (dominant species in forests in the western United States), we prepared DOM from unburned and burned detritus under hypoxic (pyrolysis) and oxic conditions (thermal oxidation) at 250 and 400 °C. DOM characteristics and chlorine reactivity were evaluated by absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy and chlorination-based DBP formation potential tests. Spectroscopic results suggest that burned-detritus extracts had lower molecular weight (reflected by increased E2:E3 and fluorescence index) and divergent aromaticity (reflected by SUVA254) depending on oxygen availability. Temperature and oxygen availability interacted to alter the chlorine reactivity of fire-affected DOM. Increasing temperature from 50 to 400 °C resulted in decreased reactivities for trihalomethane and chloral hydrate formation and divergent reactivities for haloacetonitrile formation (unchanged for pyrolysis and increased for oxidation) and haloketone formation (increased for pyrolysis and decreased for oxidation). We demonstrate that DBP precursors in fire-affected forest detritus are highly dependent on temperature and oxygen availability.

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