Wildfire and debris flows are important physical and ecological drivers in headwater streams of western North America. Past research has primarily examined short-term effects of these disturbances; less is known about longer-term impacts. We investigated wildfire effects on the invertebrate prey base for drift-feeding rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss, Walbaum) in Idaho headwater streams a decade after wildfire. Three stream types with different disturbance histories were examined: 1) unburned, 2) burned, and 3) burned followed by debris flows that reset channel morphology and riparian vegetation. The quantity of macroinvertebrate drift (biomass density) was more variable within than among disturbance categories. Average body weight and taxonomic richness of drift were significantly related to water temperature and influenced by disturbance history. During the autumn sampling period, the amount of terrestrial insects in rainbow trout diets varied with disturbance history and the amount of overhead canopy along the stream banks. Results indicate that there are detectable changes to macroinvertebrate drift and trout diet a decade after wildfire, and that these responses are better correlated with specific characteristics of the stream (water temperature, canopy cover) than with broad disturbance classes.
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