Ecological - Second Order
Fire & Climate
Climate and land-use changes are expected to increase the future occurrence of wildfires, with potentially devastating consequences for freshwater species and ecosystems. Wildfires that burn in close proximity to freshwater systems can significantly alter the physicochemical properties of water. Following wildfires and heavy rain, freshwater species must contend with complex combinations of wildfire ash components (nutrients, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and metals), altered light and thermal regimes, and periods of low oxygen that together can lead to mass mortality events. However, the responses of aquatic fauna to wildfire disturbances are poorly understood. Here we provide a systematic review of available evidence on how aquatic animals respond to and recover from wildfire disturbance. Two databases (Web of Science and Scopus) were used to identify key literature. A total of 83 studies from across 11 countries were identified to have assessed the risk of wildfires on aquatic animals. We provide a summary of the main ecosystem-level changes associated with wildfires and the main responses of aquatic fauna to such disturbances. We pay special focus to physiological tools and biomarkers used to assess how wildfires impact aquatic animals. We conclude by providing an overview of how physiological biomarkers can further our understanding of wildfire-related impacts on aquatic fauna, and how different physiological tools can be incorporated into management and conservation plans and serve as early warning signs of wildfire disturbances.