What is it about?

We present our expectations for the interactions between wildfire processes and river restoration processes, and predict their impacts on biodiversity. We draw upon two key hypotheses within the ecological literature. Firstly, that appropriate wildfire regimes have the potential to enhance biodiversity and secondly, disturbances such as flooding and wildfires could act in unison to produce 'shifting mosaics' of disturbance severity, further enhancing biodiversity at the landscape scale. We exemplify our expectations using a river restoration project on the South Fork McKenzie River, Oregon, USA, which in 2020 experienced a severe burn from the 'Holiday Farm Wildfire'.

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Why is it important?

Much research has been conducted on wildfire dynamics and river restoration in isolation, and $billions are spent on environmental management for rivers and wildfires every year. However, these two processes have never been studied in unison. We predict that river restoration-wildfire interactions will likely enhance biodiversity at the landscape scale, and increase its resilience to future disturbances, including climatic changes. Therefore, wildfire and river management solutions should be enacted synergistically in the future.


I believe that there is great potential to improve biodiversity resilience of freshwater and associated terrestrial biodiversity, which is especially important considering the global decline in freshwater biodiversity. A high proportion of global rivers are in need of restoration, and wildfire regimes are predicted to change (often for the worse) in the future under climatic changes. Therefore, managing these systems together not only saves money and resources, but also provides co-benefits and exciting new research avenues. Important further work includes the impact of different wildfire regimes, restoration scales, ecosystems and response of different biodiversity facets e.g. biological interactions.

Britt Pugh
University of Nottingham

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A possible role for river restoration enhancing biodiversity through interaction with wildfire, Global Ecology and Biogeography, June 2022, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/geb.13555.
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