There is no secret wildfire has catastrophic impacts on the landscape, but did you know it can have some positive effects to? We recently interviewed Rebecca Flitcroft, Research Fisheries Biologist at the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Corvallis, to learn about some very interesting findings from studies she was involved in regarding the impacts of wildfire on salmon habitat.
One study published in 2016 used a model which found wildfire has the potential to increase quality of adult and overwintering juvenile chinook habitat by increasing the delivery of fire-killed trees to the river system. Wood plays an important role in streams and helps build quality habitat by slowing water down and adding complexity to the river system. While there may be some negative impacts of fine sediments on quality of egg and fry habitat, the largest effect of fire on habitat quality is associated with the juvenile life stage making wildfire a potential friend of our local chinook (Fitcroft, et al., 2015).
More studies may be needed but it is inspiring to learn there may be some positive outcomes from these catastrophic wildfire events.
Listen to the full interview with Rebecca Flitcroft on the most recent episode of our podcast, River’s Reach.
Flitcroft, Rebecca L.; Falke, Jeffrey A.; Reeves, Gordon H.; Hessburg, Paul F.; McNyset, Kris M.; Benda, Lee E. 2016. Wildfire may increase habitat quality for spring Chinook salmon in the Wenatchee River subbasin, WA, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 359: 126-140.
Falke J, Flitcroft R, Dunham J, McNyset K, Hessburg P, Reeves G. 2015. Climate change and vulnerability of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in a fire-prone landscape. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Wildlife 72: 1-15.