A mathematical model made in Zaragoza improves the recovery of burned land

A scientific team with physics and engineering professionals is working on the creation of a mathematical model that serves as support for efficiently plan the actions carried out on the land to prevent erosion after a forest fireestablish the areas on which to act as a priority and the most appropriate measures to implement to ensure the recovery of the affected areas.

Firefighting teams try to put out a forest fire.

This line of research, called EFHERA (Enhancing after-Fire Hydrological and Environmental Recovery of Agroforestry zones), wants to facilitate hydrological and environmental recovery after large forest fires (GIF) and includes several projects financed by the I3A (Institute of Engineering Research of Aragon) and the University of Zaragoza. The Computational Hydraulics – Fluid Dynamics Technologies (GHC-TFD) and Advanced Information Systems (IAAA) research groups of the I3A work there, together with the Erosion and Soil and Water Evaluation group of the Aula Dei Experimental Station (EEAD- CSIC) and the Simulation and Data Laboratory Terrestrial Systems group at the Jülich Supercomputing Center (Germany).

Why the recovery of burned land improves with this mathematical model

The recovery of the land burned by a forest fire improves with this mathematical model developed at the University of Zaragoza because makes it easier to plan tasks, especially the most urgent ones.

Forest areas affected by large fires suffer rapid degradation processes in the months immediately after the fire due to intense rains, which cause the loss of the fertile soil layer. “If the recovery and management measures established are not correct or are not carried out quickly enough, the agroforestry recovery of the area may take a long time or even not be completed,” explains Sergio Martínez-Aranda, researcher in the group of I3A Fluiddynamic Technologies.

The computational platform on which they work will allow rapid evaluation in large areas of mountainous terrain, the areas where hydraulic erosion will be potentially greater, “we are talking about large areas of land, on the order of tens of thousands of hectares, being so large it is impossible to act simultaneously on the entire land and, furthermore, do so quickly in the months after the fire”, says Sergio Martínez. This platform of hydrological simulation It will be intended to support those public services and administrations that have to make post-fire action decisions. The final objective is that decisions to restore the burned area “are not made only from the experience of those who know the terrain well, but that we provide them with computational models that facilitate this work with quantifiable data,” comments the I3A researcher.

These research groups They analyze how to combine images from Sentinel satellites and hydrodynamic computational models to enable high-resolution analysis of long-term erosion processes. They will be able to obtain useful information on soil mobilization, trajectories followed by sedimentary material and areas of deposition, which are essential for the intelligent design of agricultural practices and restoration measures to prevent soil loss. This ensures that the proposed actions are adequate to minimize soil loss and reduce pollution of surface water bodies under different agroforestry scenarios, especially after forest fires.

The EFHERA research line refers to a scenario of accelerated climate change, where this post-fire degradation process occurs more and more quickly. Hence, the need to implement protection and recovery measures in the first weeks or months after a fire. “If we add to this the appearance and proliferation of massive fires that affect enormous forest areas and make it impossible to carry out simultaneous post-fire actions in the entire affected area, the recovery of the burned areas can only be addressed through exhaustive planning and orderly”, point out the research groups of the project.

Its objectives include the analysis and prediction of soil loss in large-scale and long-term surface processes; quantify the force of erosion associated with precipitation and develop an algorithm with artificial intelligence that characterizes soil parameters based on satellite images from the Copernicus EU program. All developments will be carried out an open source hydrodynamic simulation software next-generation technology developed between I3A and JSC, which is being evaluated in the JUWELS supercomputerone of the world’s best systems belonging to the European Tier-0 HPC infrastructure, at the Julich Supercomputing Center (JSC) in Germany, to evaluate capabilities in addressing large-scale and long-term spatially distributed land loss predictions.

This simulation platform aims support rigorous analysis of water and soil resources by the scientific community, as well as the informed management of agricultural activity and forest conservation by administrations to face the challenges of climate change. Likewise, they will open new Earth System Modeling (ESM) utilities, with applications ranging from the design of urgent mitigation measures to prevent erosion to the analysis of vegetation cover.

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