Firefighting with seawater: effects on soil properties in Samos Island
The island of Samos is prone to wildfires during the summer months due to its hot, arid climate and dry landscape. A crew of workers inadvertently ignited a small fire on July 7th 2016, which quickly spread across the island, claiming nearly 780 hectares of pine forest as it moved southeast from Kamara to Mesokampos. Helicopters filled their tanks from the sea and extinguished the fire using saltwater. Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation is currently working in conjunction with a Turkish scientist, Dr. Okan Urker, to analyze how seawater affects the region’s soils, specifically in regard to natural recovery potential of future vegetation.
While the main goal of this project is to analyze seawater’s impact on soil properties, subsequent research topics include monitoring soil regeneration and seed germination, comparing Samos, Greece with Kuşadası, Turkey. Dr. Urker identified 16 quadrants across the island for soil sampling, being careful to choose land segments with various physical characteristics, including areas that were burned, unburned, aspect, sloping and flat. The Terrestrial Team at Archipelagos was tasked with retrieving samples from three points within each pre-determined quadrant. The team gathered samples by digging and collecting soil, respectively, at 0-5cm, 5-10cm, 10-15cm, 0-15cm, and 15-30 cm. In addition, within burned quadrants, the depth of the ash layer was measured and the ash collected within a 10cm² area.
These samples have been sent to Dr. Urker where they will be processed in a soil research laboratory in Turkey. The analyses will consist of soil pH, salinity, electrical conductivity, and present organic matter testing. Levels of certain chemicals will also be analyzed, including Ca, Mg, K, Na, P and N, in order to deduce the soil’s health and productivity.
As this research project is still in its infancy, the next step after the data is analyzed is to monitor vegetative regeneration at the indicated quadrants, and then to compare these results with those from Turkey’s mainland. The soil sampling aspect of the project will be repeated in the winter months to come, which will help to provide more robust and diverse data for the specified analyses. The Archipelagos Terrestrial Team will continue to work with Dr. Urker on this project by assisting him in the field here on Samos and interpreting the implications of the previous and future data collected.
Isaac Marrs, University of Kentucky, USA