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Benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in five central Idaho (USA) streams over a 10-year period following disturbance by wildfire

Author(s): G. Wayne Minshall, Christopher T. Robinson, Deron E. Lawrence, Douglas A. Andrews, James T. Brock
Year Published: 2001

The effects of wildfire on benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages of streams in mixed-conifer forest were examined for 10 successive years following the Mortar Creek Fire of 1979. Changes in burned-catchment streams were evaluated relative to a paired set of reference-catchment streams. Taxa richness and total abundance tended to be lower in burn than in reference streams but to converge near the end of the study; increases in the final years in both burn and reference streams were associated with reduced flows due to drought. Total biomass and that of the scraper, filterer, and miner functional groups usually were greater in the burn streams. Lack of a strong relationship of macroinvertebrate metrics with weather conditions showed that factors specific to each stream also were influencing the biotic community. Mean among-year Jaccard similarity was lower for burn than for reference streams. Specific taxa responded differently to the effects of fire. Densities of disturbance-adapted forms (e.g. Chironomidae, Baetis) increased after the fire but not during the drought period of more stable flows at the end of the study; many other taxa showed the opposite response. Adverse effects of wildfire on the biotic community were largely the result of physical changes in habitat due to increased runoff. Timing and magnitude of effects differed widely among streams as a result of differences in stream size, burn severity, and specific storm or snow-melt events. Though major effects of the fire on the macroinvertebrates dissipated within 7 years, adjustment in the habitat and biotic conditions still were taking place at the end of 10 year and normal recovery patterns may have been obscured by the drought.

Citation: Minshall, G. Wayne; Robinson, Christopher T.; Lawrence, Deron E.; Andrews, Douglas A.; Brock, James T. 2001. Benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in five central Idaho (USA) streams over a 10-year period following disturbance by wildfire. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 10(2): 201-213.
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Water
Ecosystem(s): Montane dry mixed-conifer forest, Riparian woodland/shrubland, Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 11443
FRAMES RCS number: 9011
Record updated: Apr 1, 2015