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Project ID: 05-2-1-41

Year: 2005

Date Started: 06/08/2005

Date Completed: 09/23/2007

Title: The Effect of Wildfire on Nitrogen Dynamics Within Headwater Ecosystems

Project Proposal Abstract: This research will investigate the linkages between wildfire and aquatic ecosystem function. This most directly addresses JFSP Task 1 (AFP 2005 Local Needs) since this is an important knowledge gap that has been identified by an agency administrator and his staff concerning post-fire treatment actions. First order streams and associated riparian plant communities often make up over 50% of the river miles in a river basin yet little is known about their recovery following wildfire and need for post-fire restoration. To better assess the need for post fire restoration activities, this replicated study will investigate causal mechanisms that regulate nitrogen (N) dynamics between first order streams, forest vegetation and soil following three recent wildfires in central Idaho by (a) measuring the magnitude and origin of soil N and C pools in adjacent burned and unburned watersheds, (b) determine gross N mineralization and nitrification rates in adjacent burned and unburned watersheds, (c) measuring N concentration in emerging seedlings, shrubs and herbs in adjacent burned and unburned watersheds (d) tracking source and fate of N within the terrestrial and 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 post wildfire. Existing grant funds have been used to collect post-wildfire preliminary data in 2004 (first season post-fire) on three independent headwater sites that were burned along with adjacent unburned catchments. We are requesting additional funds to allow us to continue our wildfire data collection in 2005. This study is closely related to an ongoing headwater spring prescribed burn study on the Emmett District of the Boise National Forest and the results of both studies will be complementary. This project will address local scientific knowledge gaps and the results will provide needed information to land managers about the effects of wildfires on aquatic ecosystems so they can make informed decisions about post-fire restoration priorities along with trade-offs between prescribed fire and wildfire. In addition, understanding underlying mechanisms of nutrient dynamics post fire will greatly increase the applicability of our results to fires in other regions of the west.

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

Neil Bosworth

Forest Service

Boise NF-Lowman 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   74 Ph.D. Dissertation Wildfire and Prescribed Burning Effects on Nitrogen Dynamics in Central Idaho Headwater Ecosystems
view or print   72 Ph.D. Dissertation Fire Effects on Soil Nitrogen Dynamics in Coniferous Forests of Central Idaho USA (A. Koyama)
    2933 Journal Article Suitability of the Diffusion Method for Low Concentrations of Ammonium and Nitrate in KCL Extracts for 15N Analysis at Natural Abundance
view or print   243 MS Thesis The Effects of Wildfire on Hydraulic Properties in Conifers
    3123 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Fire Effects on Nitrogen Dynamics in Headwater Systems
    3126 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Fire Effects on Carbon Dynamics in Central Idaho Coniferous Forests
  go to website 3127 Website  

Supporting Documents

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