The Effects of Wildfire and Debris Flows on Small Headwater Stream Ecosystems in Central Idaho

Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Biology



Major Advisor

Peter Koetsier


Stephan Novak


Ian Robertson


Marcelo Serpe


Disturbance is widely recognized as a fundamental structuring force in stream ecosystems and the biota that reside in them (Pringle et al. 1988, Resh et al. 1988). In western North America, wildfire is one of the primary natural disturbances influencing heterogeneity, patchiness, and diversity in both terrestrial landscapes and the streams that drain these landscapes (Resh et al. 1988, Swanson et al. 1994). Prior to the 1988 Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem fires, few studies had examined the impact of wildfire on stream ecosystems (Minshall et al. 1989). These large fires burned over 0.57 million ha, an area larger than 2 U.S. states (Minshall et al. 1989). Together, the growing interest in disturbance ecology and the high profile Yellowstone fires may have served as a catalyst, perhaps increasing the desire to understand the impacts of wildfire on stream habitats. This interest has only increased, culminating in whole journal issues devoted to their effects (Rieman et al. 2003).

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