Understanding the effects of wildfire on fish populations and stream geomorphology in Twitchell Canyon




Natural disturbances could catalyze metapopulation restoration if they occur at sufficient scale. For instance, wildland fire commonly reduces or eliminates populations of fish in burned watersheds, and wildfires are forecasted to increase with climate warming and earlier spring snowmelts. A fire-catalyzed restoration opportunity currently exists in Clear Creek and associated tributaries within Beaver, Sevier, and Piute counties, Utah. This watershed consists of 114 km of stream habitat, most of which historically contained Utah’s state fish, the Bonneville cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii utah (BCT). This project is addressing three general interdisciplinary questions: 1) Based on the geomorphic setting and combination of fire, rainfall and other environmental variables, why were some creeks more impacted than others? What are the most meaningful metrics to quantify impacts? 2) How significant was the landscape response from this event compared with other wildfires in the same area and how do erosion rates estimated from this event compare to the long-term (millennial-scale average, i.e., natural background) rates of erosion? 3) What is the trajectory of biological and physical recovery and does it vary predictably within and among streams?


  • U.S. Forest Service
  • Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
  • US Geological Survey – Utah Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (in-kind)
  • Quinney College of Natural Resources: Quinney PhD Fellowship


  • Phaedra Budy, Principle Investigator, USGS – UCFWRU – Department of Watershed Sciences and the Ecology Center
  • Patrick Belmont, Co- Principle Investigator – Department of Watershed Sciences and the Ecology Center
  • Brendan Murphy, Post-doctoral Fellow, USU – Department of Watershed Science
  • Colton Finch, PhD Candidate, USU – Department of Watershed Science and the Ecology Center

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