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Linking Fish, Forests, Fire, and Stream Function

Team of four field technicians electrofishing a stream segment below a reach net to sample for fish and amphibians.

Electrofishing a stream reach for the SCALER field experiment. Photo: Lina DiGregorio, Oregon State University.

What is relationship of stream consumers of fish and amphibians
to macroinvertebrates and stream functional processes,
including nutrient uptake and metabolism? How do riparian
forests and fire affect those relationships?

Brooke Penaluna
Alba Argerich, University of Missouri, School of Natural Resources
Ashley Coble, NCASI (National Council on Air and Stream Improvement)

Research Description:

Under this topic, three lines of research that are ongoing, so key findings and management implications will be forthcoming. Currently, we are collecting and analyzing data from various streams originating in the Coast and Cascade Ranges. The first study, with Alba Argerich, employs a field experiment at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest to evaluate the role of stream consumers in stream functional processes by manipulating densities of aquatic vertebrates for approximately 40 days. It aims to understand observed responses of macroinvertebrates and stream functional processes of nutrient uptake, stream respiration, primary production, and metabolism. The second and third studies, with Ashley Coble, used a stratified random sampling design to select one set of streams across a gradient of forest stand age in coastal Oregon and and a further set across a gradient of forest stand age and fire severity in streams in the Cascades to understand aquatic responses, including periphyton, macroinvertebrates, amphibians, fish and riparian vegetation as well as temperature, large wood, flow, canopy cover, and water chemistry.

Stream Food Webs and Energy Pathways:

Cartoon of organisms and physical factors influencing stream function.

Factors influencing stream functions. Drawing by Kathryn Ronnenberg, USDA FS PNW Research Station.

Preliminary Findings:

Although we understand that consumers feed on periphyton and other organisms in the stream playing important roles in food webs, it is less clear how consumers connect to the level of stream functional processes, and how those relationships change across forest stand age and fire severity. Ultimately, this research will collectively contribute to an ecosystem-based understanding of aquatic-riparian ecosystems.

Link to YouTube video of SCALER project

Burned area flanks the stream at Big Creek, in the Clackamas River basin on the Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon.

Burned area along Big Creek, Clackamas River basin, Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon Cascades. Photo: B. Penaluna.

Selected Publications:

Penaluna, B.E., G.H. Reeves, Z. Barnett, P.A. Bisson, J.M. Buffington, A. Dolloff, R. Flitcroft, C.H. Luce, K. Nislow, J. Rothlisberger, and M. Warren. 2018. Using natural disturbance and portfolio concepts to guide aquatic–riparian ecosystem management. Fisheries Special Issue, August 2018. Fisheries 43(9): 406–422. https://doi.org/10.1002/fsh.10097