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Project ID: 09-1-02-8

Year: 2009

Date Started: 06/01/2009

Date Completed: 11/13/2013

Title: Fire and Fish Dynamics in a Changing Climate: Broad- and Local-Scale Effects of Fire-Induced Water Temperature Changes on Native and Nonnative Fish Communities

Project Proposal Abstract: Fire is a key natural disturbance that affects the distribution and abundance of native fishes in the Rocky Mountain West.In the absence of migratory individuals from undisturbed portions of a watershed, persistence of native fish populations depends on the conditions of the post-fire stream environment.Stream temperatures typically warm after fire, and remain elevated until riparian vegetation recovers. An additional threat to native species is that nonnative fishes have invaded many waters, and these species tolerate or prefer warmer water temperatures. Thus, forecasting the long-term effects of fire on native fish populations requires an understanding of fire dynamics (size, distribution, frequency, and severity), the extent and location of changes in riparian forest structure and time to recovery, changes in stream temperatures associated with these forest changes, and how native and nonnative fish respond to changes in water temperature. By revisiting a large number of previously sampled sitesmany exposed to fire since 2000in the Bitterroot River basin in Montana, we propose to test whether bull trout persistence and other native and nonnative fish distributions are related to temperature changes associated with fire and recent climatic trends. Field-derived relationships will then be used to link the fire-forest succession model Fire-BGCv2 with a stream temperature model to predict changes in bull trout persistence and other native and nonnative fishes. Our spatially explicit simulation modeling will evaluate the quantitative relationships among fire disturbance, stream temperature, and fish communities over long periods and varying spatial scales. Analyses of model output will allow us to examine temporal and spatial changes in water temperature and fish distributions and note what types of fire and landscape characteristics produce these patterns at different scales. This will provide the ability to predict potential thresholds in fire risk and the scales at which to expect recovery in stream temperatures (and fish communities) both temporally and spatially under various fire and climate regimes across the landscape.Given that climate change appears to be affecting both fire patterns and air temperature, tools that assist managers in predicting changes in the distribution of fire and the influence of fire management on native fishes are a critical need.

Principal Investigator: Michael K. Young

Agency/Organization: Forest Service

Branch or Dept: RMRS-Forestry Sciences Lab-Missoula

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Lisa A. Eby

University of Montana

Wildlife Biology Program

Co-Principal Investigator

Lisa M. Holsinger

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula

Co-Principal Investigator

Dan J. Isaak

Forest Service

RMRS-Aquatic Sciences Lab

Co-Principal Investigator

Robert E. Keane

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire, Fuel & Smoke Science Program

Federal Cooperator

Michael K. Young

Forest Service

RMRS-Forestry Sciences Lab-Missoula

Federal Fiscal Representative

Susan T. Major

Forest Service

RMRS-Rocky Mountain Research Station

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network


Great Basin

Northern Rockies


Southern Rockies









Bitterroot National Forest

Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

  ID Type Title
view or print   1793 Government Publication The FireBGCv2 landscape fire succession model: a research simulation platform for exploring fire and
view or print   3435 Journal Article Fire Management Today
view or print   3436 Journal Article International Journal of Wildland Fire
view or print   3437 Journal Article Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
view or print   7346 Invited Paper/Presentation Much ado about relatively little? The resilience of trout populations to fire.
view or print   7347 Invited Paper/Presentation Evidence of impacts of warming streams temperatures and wildfire on trout distribution.
view or print   7348 Invited Paper/Presentation Impacts of climate change and wildfire on stream temperature and bull trout in the East Fork Bitterr

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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