U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program. Project Number: 09-01-08-26


US government work.


Historically, wildfire was an important agent of change in landscapes across the western United States. Fires of varying magnitudes and extents contributed to a mosaic of dynamic landscape conditions. For the past century, fire management that focuses on fire suppression has effectively altered the composition of many vegetation communities across the landscape. Fire management and other landuse practices associated with natural resource use, agriculture, and residential development have changed the complexity of terrestrial landscapes. Aquatic systems have not been exempt from these changes: alterations in disturbance processes on the landscape have changed inputs into the stream environment, and practices such as stream cleaning have reduced the capacity of streams to build complex habitats. Road and dam construction have reduced connectivity among quality stream habitats for aquatic dependent species. Despite all these changes and challenges, populations of imperiled salmonids continue to survive. While the abundance and distribution of native aquatic species is much reduced, they persist in areas where suitable habitat exists and is accessible. It is part of the mission of many federal and state land management agencies to work toward a sustainable balance between ecological needs and other uses of the land. In this project, we have expanded and improved tools and techniques that make it easier for managers to consider the ecological and geomorphic effects of fire on aquatic systems. We have developed new applications that model the effect of fire on wood inputs, fine sediment, and stream temperature for the Wenatchee River watershed. We have developed models of Bull Trout and spring Chinook Salmon at landscape scales that allow us to begin to predict the potential effect of fire on the habitats necessary for the long-term persistence of these species. By considering in greater detail the connections between landscape processes and in-stream condition, we offer a landscape-scale perspective that has the potential to inform management regarding approaches to fire management that enhances aquatic habitat.