18 Aug 2014

Fire and Fish: How Fire Management Affects Aquatic Ecosystems

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 18, 2014
Contact: Beth Beard
bbeard@fisheries.
301-897-8616 office
240-687-3761 cell

Québec City, Canada—With wildfires raging in the West this summer, it is time to reassess our knowledge-base and understanding of fire management. While humans may think they are helping when they control wildfires, they may actually be doing a disservice to the environment. The truth is that fire management can actually disrupt the landscape and in-stream ecosystems. A symposium next week on “Fire Management and Aquatic Systems: Past, Present, and Future” at the American Fisheries Society 144th Annual Meeting in Québec City is sure to clear any smoky air clouding our understanding of the environmental effects of fire management.

Some of the critical information gaps will be identified at “Missing Pieces: What Do We Still Need to Know about Fire and Aquatic Ecosystems,” a presentation by Robert Gresswell of the U.S. Geological Survey providing perspective on the causal relationship between fire and the affected aquatic life and function.

“Although it is possible to define general management strategies to ameliorate the effects of fire on aquatic communities, site specific or even watershed specific predictions remain elusive,” Gresswell said.

While fire can be daunting to humans, wildfires are classified as natural disturbances that native species (aquatic and land-based) have adapted to withstand. In fact, these forest landscapes require fire to open their “forest canopy” allowing for natural regeneration. Over 100 years of fire management is responsible for the change in the frequency, intensity, and extent of wildfires, but now we are faced with a series of environmental problems. While fire management seems like a beneficial approach to maintaining a wild area, scientists are continuing to explore the relationship between fire and aquatic ecosystem health.

Presentations in this symposium will center on the effects of fire on four topical areas: (1) nutrient cycling, environmental conditions, and food web processes; (2) macroinvertebrate and amphibian diversity and abundance; (3) fish population dynamics; and (4) fire management alternatives that have the potential to enhance aquatic habitat. Experts hope to come together to get a better understanding of these issues at “Fire Management and Aquatic Systems: Past, Present, and Future.”

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Editor’s Note: “Fire Management and Aquatic Systems: Past, Present, and Future” will be held Monday, August 18, 2014: 1:30 p.m. – 5:20 p.m. at Room 2104A at the Québec City Convention Centre. Please contact Beth Beard for complimentary media registration for admission.

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