In situ burning of oil in coastal marshes. 1. Vegetation recovery and soil temperature as a function of water depth, oil type, and marsh type

Qianxin Lin, Irving A Mendelssohn, Nelson P Bryner, William D Walton
Environmental Science & Technology 2005 March 15, 39 (6): 1848-54
In-situ burning of oiled wetlands potentially provides a cleanup technique that is generally consistent with present wetland management procedures. The effects of water depth (+10, +2, and -2 cm), oil type (crude and diesel), and oil penetration of sediment before the burn on the relationship between vegetation recovery and soil temperature for three coastal marsh types were investigated. The water depth over the soil surface during in-situ burning was a key factor controlling marsh plant recovery. Both the 10- and 2-cm water depths were sufficient to protect marsh vegetation from burning impacts, with surface soil temperatures of <35 and 48 degrees C, respectively. Plant survival rate and growth responses at these water depth burns were not significantly different from the unburned control. In contrast, a water table 2 cm below the soil surface during the burn resulted in high soil temperatures, with 90-200 degrees C at 0-0.5 cm soil depth and 55-75 degrees C at 1-2 cm soil depth. The 2-cm soil exposure to fire significantly impeded the post-burn recovery of Spartina alterniflora and Sagittaria lancifolia but did not detrimentally affect the recovery of Spartina patens and Distichlis spicata. Oil type (crude vs diesel) and oil applied to the marsh soil surface (0.5 L x m(-2)) before the burn did not significantly affect plant recovery. Thus, recovery is species-specific when no surface water exists. Even water at the soil surface will most likely protect wetland plants from burning impact.

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