Polymer Shown To Rehabilitate Soil After A Wildfire
Wildfires claim hundreds of thousands of farm acres yearly, causing famines and permanent devastation to the soil that produced the farmed crops. But a graduate student at Tel Aviv University (TAU), along with his supervising professors from TAU and the University of La Coruña in Spain, has identified an anionic polymer polyacrylamide (PAM) that seems to enable reforestation more rapidly and less expensively than current methods.
When fire rages through vegetation, the remaining soil is dry and mixed with ash. Water doesn't permeate the remnants, but causes runoff and further soil erosion, especially on steep slopes and thinly soiled areas of land. Current methods of reforestation, such as mulching the soil, are expensive and require substantial time to rehabilitate the soil.
Assaf Inbar, who is in the graduate program at TAU's Porter School of Environmental Studies, conducted experiments with PAM, which is already being used in agriculture as a soil conditioner. The experiments were conducted on burnt soils both in the lab with a rainfall simulator and in burnt areas of Birya Forest in Israel with natural rainfall during its rainy season.
Results were very positive. In both scenarios, the addition of PAM was shown to reduce soil erosion by about 50 percent. Additionally, researchers saw that PAM was able to successfully nurture vegetation (PAM is non-toxic.), using wheat as a model. Next, they plan to ttest PAM's interaction with different soils and with ash, and to test PAM's effectiveness on much larger areas of fire damaged land.