Variations in forest fires regime affect: (1) the natural patterns of community structure and vegetation; (2) the physico-chemical properties of soils and consequently (3) runoff, erosion and sediment yield. In recent decades the Mediterranean ecosystem of Mount Carmel, north-western Israel, is subjected to an increasing number of forest fires, thus, the objectives of the study were to evaluate the long-term effects of single and recurrent fires on soil water repellency (WR) and organic matter (OM) content. Water repellency was studied by applying water drop penetration time (WDPT) tests at sites burnt by single-fire, two fires, three fires and unburnt control sites. Water repellency in the burnt sites was significantly lower than in the unburnt control sites, and the soil maintained its wettability for more than 2 decades, whereas after recurrent fires, the rehabilitation was more complicated and protracted. The OM content was significantly lower after recurrent than after a single fire, causing a clear proportional decrease in WR. The rehabilitation of WR to natural values is highly dependent on restoration of organic matter and revegetation. Recurrent fires may cause a delay in recovery and reduced productivity of the soil for a long period.
- organic matter
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