The fire pulse: Wildfire stimulates flux of aquatic prey to terrestrial habitats driving increases in riparian consumers

Rachel L. Malison, Colden V. Baxter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations

Abstract

We investigated the midterm effects of wildfire (in this case, five years after the fire) of varying severity on periphyton, benthic invertebrates, emerging adult aquatic insects, spiders, and bats by comparing unburned sites with those exposed to low severity (riparian vegetation burned but canopy intact) and high severity (canopy completely removed) wildfire. We observed no difference in periphyton chlorophyll a or ash-free dry mass among different burn categories but did observe significantly greater biomass of benthic invertebrates in both high severity burned and unburned reaches versus low severity burned reaches. Moreover, a significantly greater flux of adult aquatic insect emergence occurred at sites that experienced high severity fire versus low severity burned and unburned sites. The greatest number of spiders and bat echolocation calls were also observed at sites of high severity fire. Our results suggest that fires of different severity may have very different affects on stream-riparian food webs and that high severity wildfire may lead to an extended "fire pulse" that stimulates aquatic productivity and flux of prey to terrestrial habitats, driving local increases in riparian consumers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-579
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Volume67
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2010

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