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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Tyler L. Lewis; Mark S. Lindberg; Joel A. Schmutz; Mark R. Bertram
Publication Date: May 2014

Fires are the major natural disturbance in the boreal forest, and their frequency and intensity will likely increase as the climate warms. Terrestrial nutrients released by fires may be transported to boreal lakes, stimulating increased primary productivity, which may radiate through multiple trophic levels. Using a before-after-control-impact (BACI) design, with pre- and postfire data from burned and unburned areas, we examined effects of a natural fire across several trophic levels of boreal lakes, from nutrient and chlorophyll levels, to macroinvertebrates, to waterbirds. Concentrations of total nitrogen and phosphorus were not affected by the fire. Chlorophyll a levels were also unaffected, likely reflecting the stable nutrient concentrations. For aquatic invertebrates, we found that densities of three functional feeding groups did not respond to the fire (filterers, gatherers, scrapers), while two groups increased (shredders, predators). Amphipods accounted for 98% of shredder numbers, and we hypothesize that fire-mediated habitat changes may have favored their generalist feeding and habitat ecology. This increase in amphipods may, in turn, have driven increased predator densities, as amphipods were the most numerous invertebrate in our lakes and are commonly taken as prey. Finally, abundance of waterbird young, which feed primarily on aquatic invertebrates, was not affected by the fire. Overall, ecosystems of our study lakes were largely resilient to forest fires, likely due to their high initial nutrient concentrations and small catchment sizes. Moreover, this resilience spanned multiple trophic levels, a significant result for ecologically similar boreal regions, especially given the high potential for increased fires with future climate change. © 2014 by the Ecological Society of America. Abstract reproduced by permission.

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Citation: Lewis, T. L., M. S. Lindberg, J. A. Schmutz, and M. R. Bertram. 2014. Multi-trophic resilience of boreal lake ecosystems to forest fires. Ecology, v. 95, no. 5, p. 1253-1263.

Cataloging Information

  • aquatic invertebrates
  • boreal forest
  • boreal forests
  • disturbance
  • ecological subsidy
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • fire management
  • forest fire
  • forest management
  • freshwater food web
  • invertebrates
  • lakes
  • nutrients
  • population density
  • resilience
  • trophic ecology
  • water
  • waterbirds
  • waterfowl
  • watershed management
  • wildfires
  • wildlife food habits
Tall Timbers Record Number: 30288Location Status: In-fileCall Number: Journals - EAbstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 53006

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by Tall Timbers and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of Tall Timbers.