Erosion and weed dominance often limit the recovery of burned piñon-juniper woodlands. Soil water repellency (SWR) is one factor that may contribute to this by increasing overland flow and impeding seedling establishment. In spite of these effects, the extent of SWR within piñon-juniper woodlands is unknown. In this study, the extent, severity and thickness of SWR were sampled across 41 1,000 m2 plots within three 2009 Utah wildfires. Predictive models of SWR were built from ecological site characteristic data collected at each site. Across the study, SWR was found at 37% of the points sampled. SWR extent was strongly related to piñon-juniper canopy cover (r2 = 0.60) and was found to be significantly higher in tree/shrub mound zones (71%) as compared to interspaces (16%). Endorsed predictive models of SWR extent and severity had R2 adj values of 0.63 and 0.61; both models included piñon-juniper canopy cover and relative humidity the month before the fire as coefficient terms. These results suggest that as piñon-juniper canopy cover increases due to infilling processes in the coming years, post-fire SWR extent and severity will increase. As the effects of a changing climate in the Intermountain West link additively with infilling processes to increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires, the net effect will be stronger SWR over a greater spatial extent. To cope with these changes, land managers can apply the predictive models developed in this study to prioritize fuel control and post-fire restoration treatments with respect to SWR.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





woodland encroachment, hydrophobicity, wildfire, restoration, climate change, ecological site characteristics