• The effects of intense fire on headwater streams of the Colville National Forest, WA

      Mellon, Cassie Danielle (2006-12)
      Forest fires play an important role in shaping ecosystems, and there has been growing concern on the effects of high intensity fires on forest and aquatic ecosystems. Headwater streams are highly connected to riparian and surrounding terrestrial systems, and to downstream aquatic systems, partly through prey and organic matter transfers via aquatic invertebrate drift and emergence. Because of their small size, headwater streams may experience the greatest initial impact from forest fire, but may also return to pre-fire conditions quicker than larger streams. In this study, headwater streams from replicated burned and control watersheds were sampled in the two years following an intense forest fire in northeastern Washington. Benthic, drift and emergence samples of aquatic invertebrates were taken and analyzed for differences in density, biomass and community composition between watershed types. There was significantly higher density of invertebrates in burned sites, but no difference in biomass except in invertebrate emergence which was greater at burned sites. There was lower diversity in the burned watersheds, and the invertebrate community was dominated by chironomids. These changes in invertebrate density and community composition could influence the food resources available to aquatic and riparian consumers.