Prescribed Burning Impacts on Riparian and Stream Environments

EPA Grant Number: U915721
Title: Prescribed Burning Impacts on Riparian and Stream Environments
Investigators: Beche (Rogers), Leah A.
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 1, 2000 through August 1, 2003
Project Amount: $77,772
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Fellowship - Ecology and Ecosystems


The objective of this study is to examine the effects of moderate intensity prescribed fires on stream and riparian environments. The response of benthic macroinvertebrate populations and communities to prescribed burns will be quantified with respect to their effect on riparian forests, water quality, debris dynamics, and channel morphology.


A portion of the Blodgett Forest Research Station (BFRS, UC Berkeley) in the central Sierra Nevada will be prescribe burned in October 2001. Ten hectare plots will be burned adjacent to established sites on one first order stream and one second order stream (each draining separate, but adjacent watersheds). Control sites have been established at three other first order streams in the same watersheds. Five years of reference data on the macroinvertebrate communities of these five streams have been collected as part of a biomonitoring program started at BFRS in 1995. Over 4 years (2001-2004), variables describing the riparian forest, macroinvertebrate communities, channel morphology, hydrology, water quality, and woody debris dynamics will be quantified. This experiment uses a beyond-BACI experimental design (Before-After-Control-Impact), where measurements will be taken before and after impact at multiple control sites and two impacted sites. The data will be compared between control and impact sites both before and after the fire. Two 50 m? riparian plots adjacent to each site will be established, where canopy cover, species composition, and density will be measured. Leaf-litter traps will be placed instream at each site and the contents collected monthly to monitor changes in litter fall into the stream. Macroinvertebrates will be sampled five times at each site. Large woody debris will be tagged, mapped, and monitored for inputs and movement. Water quality samples and in-channel hydrological measurements also will be taken. All measurements and samples will be taken twice per year (June and October) for 4 years (2001-2005) on each of the five creeks. This will provide 1 year of pre-fire data and 4 years of post-fire data, except for the macroinvertebrate samples, which will have 6 years of pre-fire data.

Expected Results:

By studying the effects of fire on both riparian and stream environments, an understanding will develop of the way that fire affects each habitat, in addition to determining the role of the interface between the two environments in post-fire recovery. Both the short-term and long-term impacts of fires on forests, riparian zones, and stream habitats affect stream benthic macroinvertebrate communities. By sampling the biotic component of streams, the quality of the stream environment can be assessed over a relatively long period of time.

Supplemental Keywords:

fire, riparian, invertebrates, stream, prescribed burn, Sierra Nevada, watershed, aquatic, population, community, disturbance, ecosystem, California, CA, EPA Region 9, habitat, ecology., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecology, exploratory research environmental biology, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Chemical Mixtures - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecosystem Protection, State, Forestry, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecological Effects - Human Health, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecology and Ecosystems, EPA Region, Ecological Indicators, Region 9, habitat, benthic invertebrates, ecological effects, ecological exposure, Riparian ecosystem, stream ecosystems, riparian forests, water quality, California (CA)

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2001
  • 2002
  • Final