RMRS Air, Water, & Aquatic Environments Science Program Fire and Aquatic Ecosystems

US Forest Service Research and Development

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Fire & Aquatic Ecosystems
 Syntheses and Topics
  Aquatic Ecology
  Fishes & Amphibians
  Management Actions
  Climate Change
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Air, Water, & Aquatic Environments Program
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Rocky Mountain Research Station Home > Science Program Areas > Air, Water and Aquatics > Fire and Aquatic Ecosystems > Syntheses and Topics


Fire and Aquatic Ecosystems Syntheses and Topics


ecosystems Synthesis

larger synthesis on the state of our knowledge pertaining to fire and aquatic ecosystems. 


syntheses And Topics

Fire and Aquatic Ecosystems - Terrestrial vegetation and fire regimes

Terrestrial vegetation and fire regimes 

This section is intended to showcase the state of the science with respect to the relationship between terrestrial vegetation, fire behavior, and fire regimes.  Topics to be covered in this section include climate change and regional fire regimes; climate, weather, and eco-hydrology as local controls on forest vegetation; fuels, and wildfire; alternatives for fire and fuels management; using remotely sensed data to assess post-fire ecological effects; and predicting fire behavior and active fire characteristics.

Section Lead and Contributors | Presentations

Fire and Aquatic Ecosystems - Riparian Systems

Riparian systems 

This set of review papers will summarize existing knowledge regarding the influence of wildfire on riparian characteristics and functions over time, including fire history of riparian forests and post-fire response of native and invasive species.  We will focus on riparian conditions that are critical for aquatic habitat and reflect post-fire hydrologic, geomorphic and ecological processes.  Since fire-related management of aquatic resources frequently involves treatment of riparian areas, we will also address current management challenges, including restoration, fuel reduction, and invasive species control in dynamic streamside environments.

Section Lead and Contributors | Presentations

Fire and Aquatic Ecosystems - Hydrology


Stream flows and stream temperature form important controls on the distribution of aquatic species, and fire and climate change both have strong effects on processes governing them.  While changes caused by fire can be dramatic and acute, they commonly have a limited spatial scale and finite duration.  In contrast the effects of climate change are probabilistic in nature and somewhat more subtle, but the probabilities are increasing over time and effects may be coherent over scales of hundreds of miles.  In effect climate change is gradually resetting the context in which impacts to aquatic communities must be evaluated, and the interaction of the two will ultimately provide the most challenging situation for many aquatic communities.  Papers in this section will discuss processes affecting hydrologic and stream temperature changes and their relevance to aquatic ecosystems and decisions affecting them.

Section Lead and Contributors | Presentations

Fire and Aquatic Ecosystems - Geomorphology


Wildland fire has profound effects on transport of sediment and organic material from terrestrial to aquatic systems and then downstream.  Topics to be covered in this section include wildfire and the supply of sediment and wood to stream channels; sediment and wood routing; channel evolution; debris flow scaling and landslides; effects of fire severity on landslide occurrence; and sediment supply, routing and fundamental differences between management and wildfire.

Section Lead and Contributors | Presentations

Fire and Aquatic Ecosystems - Aquatic Ecology

Aquatic Ecology

Advances in analytical methods are facilitating evermore detailed studies of fire effects on microbial and macroinvertebrate communities in streams. Topics to be covered in this section include fire effects on aquatic invertebrates; carbon source and linked food webs; fire and nutrient cycling/retention; and fire and lake limnology.

Section Lead and Contributors | Presentations

Fire and Aquatic Ecosystems - Fishes and Amphibians

Fishes and Amphibians

This section will provide an overview of the current knowledge regarding response of fish and amphibian populations to wildfire and subsequent hydrologic disturbance and habitat changes.  We will focus on biological adaptations and the ecological and watershed characteristics that contribute to the resilience and vulnerability of distinct populations.  A synthesis will consider both the conflict and opportunities for more integrated solutions in terrestrial and aquatic management.

Section Lead and Contributors | Presentations

Fire and Aquatic Ecosystems - Management Actions

Management Actions

Fuels management on public lands involves pre-fire treatments, direct responses to wildland fire, and post-fire treatments or rehabilitation.  At each stage fire management activities are likely to affect aquatic ecosystems with outcomes somewhere along a continuum from detrimental to benign.  A broad-scale, integrated approach to identifying hazards and risks from wildland fire could enable land managers to allocate precious resources in a manner most likely to produce resilient forests, capable of absorbing the effects of wildland fire without long-term negative impacts to resources.  While “watch it burn” is not the answer for all forests, it is likely ample opportunity exists to use wildland fire.  This section will present alternatives to containment and suppression-based forest management that allow for increased reliance on wildland fire. 

Section Lead and Contributors | Presentations

Fire and Aquatic Ecosystems - Climate Change

Climate change

Ongoing and projected environmental trends associated with a warming climate are changing the context within which wildfire affects aquatic ecosystems. Many disturbances associated with wildfire will be enhanced by climate shifts, climate will impose its own set of effects, and interactions between these factors will occur. This section attempts to synthesize these factors and the implications for aquatic ecosystems.

Section Lead and Contributors | Presentations


Rocky Mountain Research Station - Air, Water and Aquatic Environments Sciences Program
Last Modified:  Tuesday, 13 October 2015 at 12:39:33 CDT

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