Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) scientists began to evaluate this question following the 2002 Hayman Fire, located 50 km southwest of Denver. The Hayman Fire, the largest in recorded Colorado history, burned watersheds with streams that flow into the South Platte River, affecting the drinking water supply for residents of the Denver Colorado metropolitan area as well as agricultural and industrial users.
Fortuitously, RMRS scientists and USFS managers began to analyze stream water quality in tributaries of the South Platte River prior to the fire, so were able to evaluate the short-term effect of the fire on nutrient, sediment and stream temperature and more recently to track the fire’s long-term effects.
Rhoades, Charles C.; Chow, Alex T.; Covino, Timothy P.; Fegel, Timothy S.; Pierson, Derek N.; Rhea, Allison E. 2018. The legacy of a severe wildfire on stream nitrogen and carbon in headwater catchments. Ecosystems. doi: 10.1007/s10021-018-0293-6.