Short-term effects of wildfire on montane stream ecosystems in the southern Rocky Mountains: One and two years post-burn

Sharon Hall, Danica Lombardozzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The frequency and intensity of wildfire in the western United States has increased over the last century, creating a heterogeneous mosaic of landscapes in various stages of recovery. The 2002 Hayman Fire was one of the largest wildfires in Colorado history and was unprecedented for its speed and intensity, with over 50%-70% of the burn area classified as moderate to high severity where much of the canopy crown was consumed. We evaluated the short-term impact of the Hayman Fire on ecological properties in montane stream ecosystems in the summers of 2003 and 2004, one and two years post-fire. Fire significantly altered surface temperature, dissolved oxygen concentration, and the chemical composition of stream water, including concentrations of nitrate, phosphate, and mineral salts. However, fire did not have significant impacts on stream conductivity, pH, or total concentrations of cations or anions during our study period. Streams in the burn area contained fewer benthic macroinvertebrate taxa compared to unburned streams during the year after fire and contained lower invertebrate densities and biomass compared to reference streams 2 years post-fire. Average C:N ratio of the benthic macroinvertebrate community was significantly and negatively related to stream nitrate concentration, possibly due to a shift in community composition or invertebrate nitrogen acquisition in fire-affected streams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-462
Number of pages10
JournalWestern North American Naturalist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Benthic macroinvertebrate
  • C:N
  • Hayman Fire
  • Mixed coniferous forest
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Stoichiometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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