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Project ID: 04-2-1-97

Year: 2004

Date Started: 08/05/2004

Date Completed: 04/24/2008

Title: The Effect of Spring Prescribed Fires on Nitrogen Dynamics Within Riparian and Stream Ecosystems

Project Proposal Abstract: This research will investigate the linkages between prescribed fire for fuel reduction and aquatic ecosystem function. This most directly addresses JFSP Task 2-1 (AFP 2004 Task 1) since this is an important knowledge gap that has been identified by an agency administrator and his staff. Intermittent headwater streams and associated riparian plant communities often make up over 50% of the river miles in a watershed yet little is know about their response to prescribed fire for fuel reduction. This replicated study will investigate causal mechanisms that regulate nitrogen (N) dynamics between intermittent headwater streams, riparian vegetation and soil following a spring prescribed burn by (a) measuring the magnitude and origin of soil N and C pools in burned and unburned watersheds, (b) determine gross N mineralization and nitrification rates in burned and unburned water sheds, (c) measuring plant biomass and N concentration in trees, shrubs and herbs pre and post-fire and on burned and unburned watersheds and calculating a N retention index (ratio of biomass loss : N loss) for different plant groups, (d) tracking source and fate of N within the stream biotic communities and (e) monitoring N output downstream in burned and unburned watersheds. We theorize that N retention rates in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are very high in these N-limited systems thus minimizing net ecosystem N loss due to fire. Existing grant funds have been used to collect pre-burn data in 2002-2003 and will be used to collect limited post-burn data in six headwater watersheds on the Emmett District of the Boise National Forest. Three of the watersheds will be burned in Spring 2004 with three watersheds designated as controls. We are requesting additional funds to allow us to further explore causal mechanisms regulating N dynamics post-fire in riparian forests and effects on the aquatic ecosystem. This project will address local scientific knowledge gaps and the results will provide needed information to land managers who are asking questions about the tradeoffs between fuel reduction programs and aquatic ecosystem function. In addition, understanding underlying mechanisms will greatly increase the applicability of our results to other vegetation types.

Principal Investigator: Kathleen L. Kavanagh

Agency/Organization: Texas A&M University-College Station

Branch or Dept: Department of Ecosystem Science & Management

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Wayne Minshall

Idaho State University

Department of Biological Sciences

Federal Cooperator

John R. Erickson

Forest Service

Boise NF-Emmett Ranger District

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Northern Rockies


There are no project locations identified for this project.

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   51 Ph.D. Dissertation  
view or print   52 Ph.D. Dissertation  
    3124 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Comparison of Wildfire and Prescribed Burn Effects on Nitrogen Dynamics in Central Idaho Headwater Ecosystems
    3125 Conference/Symposia/Workshop  
    2738 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Fire Effects on Nitrogen Concentration and Nitrogen Isotopic Composition in Riparian and Upslope Plants of Headwaters
    2739 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Ash Effects on Nitrogen Dynamics in Soils and Plants After a Wildfire
    6012 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Advanced Reforestation and Fire Restoration Short Course

Supporting Documents

The following supporting documents are available for this project.

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