Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: New Mexico
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Kremer, L., and C.A. Caldwell. Wildfire effects on mass and thermal tolerance of Hydropsyche oslari (Trichoptera) in southwestern montane grassland streams. Freshwater Science. 41:62-76.


Large-scale disturbances, such as wildfire, can markedly affect streams for years. As terrestrial areas within a watershed slowly recover, stream environments and biota can experience repeated and long-lasting challenges. In 2011, the Las Conchas wildfire burned 1/3 of the Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico, USA. Seven y post-fire, streams located near the burn perimeter continue to experience varying levels of alteration (e.g., channel alteration with large diel temperature swings), whereas the terrestrial uplands have begun to recover. Extreme temperatures in stream systems may affect the aquatic community, including ectotherms such as caddisflies. These post-fire temperature ranges may increase an ectotherm’s breadth of thermal adaptation, but at metabolic costs that diminish organismal performance, such as growth, development, and fecundity. In this study we characterized in situ effects of varied thermal regimes across preserve streams on the performance of the caddisfly Hydropsyche oslari Banks, 1905. We measured mass and critical thermal maximum (CTmax) in H. oslari larvae from preserve streams affected by wildfire (high temperature range) and in streams minimally affected by wildfire (low temperature range). We predicted that increased daily temperature maxima and reduced daily temperature minima (i.e., large diel temperature swings) would be associated with reduced H. oslari mass because of the limiting effects of suboptimal temperatures on growth. As predicted, in the weeks prior to their emergence as terrestrial adults, 5th-instar larvae within the high-temperature-range stream had reduced mass (mean 3.3 ± SE 0.55 mg) relative to larvae from the low-temperature-range stream (6.2 ± 0.69 mg). We also predicted that CTmax of H. oslari would reflect stream thermal history. Indeed, larvae H. oslari from the high-temperature-range stream exhibited increased CTmax (35.4 ± 0.17°C) compared with larvae from the low-temperature-range stream (34.4 ± 0.28°C). We demonstrated that the effects of wildfire on caddisflies can be long lasting, as evidenced by the reduced size at maturity and higher thermal tolerance in a caddisfly population 7 y post-fire.