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A forest fire next to the Bitterroot River in Montana. UCLA-led research revealed that larger fires tend to be followed by larger increases in streamflow.

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Park Williams research: Forest fires increasingly affecting rivers and streams – for better and worse

Even years after the smoke clears, forest fires can significantly affect the amount of water flowing in rivers & streams and increase the risk for floods & landslides, a new study led by UCLA’s Park Williams finds. Williams, a UCLA associate professor of geography and the study’s lead author, said forest fires enhance streamflow because they burn away vegetation that would otherwise draw water from soil and block precipitation before it ever reached the soil. Intense forest fires can also “cook” soils, making them temporarily water repellent.