Effects of Wildfire on Streams

This is a long-term (>25 yr.) study that was initiated by Dr. Minshall and has been continued by Dr. Baxter, students and collaborators since 2005. It is aimed at defining the recovery sequence for stream communities following wildfire and testing stream ecosystem theory. Environmental, population, and community-level responses have been measured in streams, immediately after fire and over the subsequent 1 to 20 years. In addition, several streams subjected to wildfire 50 years previously have been examined. Research is focused on forested watersheds in the Frank Church Wilderness of central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. These studies provide valuable insights into the fundamental processes operating in stream ecosystems, as well as information useful to resource managers concerned with the effects of fire, the establishment of guidelines concerning fire in wilderness areas, and strategies for watershed and stream habitat rehabilitation following fire.
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Rugenski, A. T., and G.W. Minshall. 2014. Climate-moderated responses to wildfire by macroinvertebrates and basal food resources in montane wilderness streams. Ecosphere 5(3):25.

McWethy, D.B., W.F. Cross, C.V. Baxter, C. Whitlock, and R.E. Gresswell. 2012. Natural disturbance dynamics – shaping the Yellowstone landscape. In R.A. Garrott and P.J. White, editors. Yellowstone’s wildlife in transition. Harvard University Press.

Jackson, B.K., S.M.P. Sullivan and R.L. Malison. 2012. Wildfire severity mediates fluxes of plant material and terrestrial invertebrates to mountain streams. Forest Ecology and Management 278:27-34.

Romme, W., M. Boyce, R. Gresswell, E. Merrill, G.W. Minshall, C. Whitlock, and M. Turner. 2011. Twenty years after the 1988 Yellowstone fires: lessons about disturbance and ecosystems. Ecosystems 14: 1196-1215.

Malison, R.L. and C.V. Baxter. 2010. The “fire pulse:” wildfire stimulates flux of aquatic prey to terrestrial habitats driving increases in riparian consumers. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 67(3):570-579.

Malison, R.L. and C.V. Baxter. 2010. Effects of wildfire of varying severity on benthic stream insect assemblages and emergence. Journal of North American Benthological Society.

2005. The trophic basis of reference and post-fire stream food webs 10 years after wildfire in Yellowstone National Park. Aquatic Sciences 67:541-548. (Mihuc, T. B., and G. W. Minshall).

2005. Functional characteristics of wilderness streams twenty years following wildfire. Western North American Naturalist 65:1-10. (Robinson, C. T., U. Uehlinger, and G. W. Minshall).

2004. The effects of postfire salvage logging on aquatic ecosystems in the American West. BioScience 54:1029-1033. (Karr, J. R., J. J. Rhodes, G. W. Minshall, F. R. Hauer, R. L. Beschta, C. A. Frissell, and D. A. Perry).

2004. Stream ecosystem responses to fire: the first ten years. In: L. L. Wallace (ed.) After the Fires: the ecology of change in Yellowstone National Park. Yale University Press, New Haven. (G. W. Minshall, T. V. Royer, and C. T. Robinson).

2003. Responses of stream benthic macroinvertebrates to fire. Forest Ecology and Management 178:155-161. (G. W. Minshall).

2003. Effects of wildfire on Yellowstone stream ecosystems: a retrospective view after a decade. In: K. E. M. Galley, R. C. Klinger, and N. G. Sugihara (eds.) Proceedings of Fire Conference 2000: The First National Congress on Fire Ecology, Prevention and Management. Miscellaneous Publication No. 13, Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, FL, pages 164-173. (G. W. Minshall, K. E. Bowman, and C. D. Myler).

2001. Response of the Cache Creek macroinvertebrates during the first 10 years following disturbance by the 1988 Yellowstone wildfires. Canadian Journal Fisheries Aquatic Sciences 58:1077-1088. (G. W. Minshall, T. V. Royer, and Christopher T. Robinson).

2001. Water quality substratum and biotic responses of five central Idaho (USA) streams during the first year following the Mortar Creek fire. International Journal Wildland Fire 10:185-199. (G. W. Minshall, J. T. Brock, D. A. Andrews, and C. T. Robinson).

2001. Benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in five central Idaho (USA) streams over a 10-year period following disturbance by wildfire. International Journal Wildland Fire 10:201-213. (G. W. Minshall, C. T. Robinson, D. E. Lawrence, D. A. Andrews, and J. T. Brock).

1997. Postfire responses of lotic ecosystems in Yellowstone National Park, U. S. A. Canadian Journal Fisheries Aquatic Sciences 54:2509-2525. (G. W. Minshall, C. T. Robinson, and D. E. Lawrence)


1995. Benthic community structure in two adjacent streams in Yellowstone National Park five years after the 1988 wildfires. Great Basin Naturalist 55:193-200. (G. W. Minshall, C. T. Robinson, T. V. Royer, and S. R. Rushforth).

1990. Changes in wild trout habitat following forest fire. Pages 111 - 127, in: F. Richardson and R. H. Hamre eds. Wild Trout IV: proceedings of the symposium. U.S. Government Printing Office: 1990 774-173/25037. (G. W. Minshall, D. A. Andrews, J. T. Brock, C. T. Robinson, and D. E. Lawrence).

1989. Wildfires and Yellowstone's stream ecosystems: a temporal perspective shows that aquatic recovery parallels forest succession. BioScience 39:707-715. (with J. T. Brock and J. D. Varley).