Fire induced rock spalls as long-term traps for ash

N. Shtober-Zisu, A. Brook, D. Kopel, D. Roberts, C. Ichoku, L. Wittenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Severe fires accelerate rock weathering by spalling and exfoliation, creating abundant peels, flakes or spalls. In the following years, these spalls serve as physical traps which accommodate fine particles of dust, ash, organic matter, etc. We searched for traces of ash trapped under the spalls, after four major fires: 1989, 2005, 2010 and 2015 in Israel. Samples were collected beneath the spalls that formed on the rock outcrops, and in the immediate vicinity above and below them. Three laboratory analyses were performed: pH, EC and color. Five mineral/organic compounds were measured across the Mid-Infrared (MIR) spectral region at diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier transform mode: Hydroxylapatite (HAp), charcoal, organic carbon, montmorillonite and kaolinite. Several statistical analyses were performed: MANOVA, PCA and silhouette analysis on K-means clustering. The results show evidence of ash trapped under the spalls formed during the 2005 and 2010 fires, 6 to 11 years after the fires. Charcoal presence is evident, as well as increased amounts of HAp and organic carbon. In the exposed soil above or below the burned rock outcrop, these values are lower. Negligible amounts of ash were measured 27 years after the fire. In the 2015 burned outcrop, large amounts of charcoal were found above and below the outcrop, but not under the spalls. It seems that on the carbonate slopes of Israel and under Mediterranean climate, the time required for spalls to begin functioning as traps is longer than one rainy season, while ash traces are preserved in these traps for a period of two-three decades.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-99
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF-Grant No. 2014299 ). The authors are grateful to Dr. Naama Tessler and Hani Amasha for helping in the field.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • Ash
  • Charcoal
  • Exfoliation
  • Fire
  • Hydroxylapatite
  • Rock decay
  • Rock spalls

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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