Cooperative Research Units
Education, Research And Technical Assistance For Managing Our Natural Resources
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Boreal Aquatic Ecosystem Vulnerability to Fire and Climate Change


May 2018 - May 2022


Fire is the dominant ecological disturbance process in boreal forests and is natural and widespread. However, fire frequency, size and severity are increasing in Alaska owing to climate warming. Interactions among fire, climate, permafrost, vegetation and hydrologic and watershed processes are poorly understood, yet critical for conservation and management of boreal aquatic habitats in a changing environment. Our research will address this challenge on and around DoD lands in interior Alaska by combining a detailed field experiment and measurements with an integrated suite of spatially- and temporally-explicit climate, terrestrial, and aquatic habitat models to better our understanding of the effects of fire and climate change on aquatic communities in interior Alaska boreal ecosystems. Collaborators include the University of Alaska Fairbanks, USGS, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Defense, and the Alaska Fire Science Consortium. The two primary goals of this project are to, 1) quantify fire effects on watershed- and local-scale aquatic habitats and the response of aquatic organisms on and adjacent to DoD lands in interior Alaska, and 2) integrate models that predict climate, fire, vegetation, hydrologic, and thermal dynamics to assess aquatic habitat and population vulnerability under a changing climate on and adjacent to DoD lands in interior Alaska. We will incorporate results from both objectives using a structured decision making (SDM) approach to define management objectives, decision options, management scenarios, and conduct cost-benefit analyses. The final product will be a web-based decision support tool developed to inform decision making.

Research Products and Activities


  • Hinkle E., and J. Falke. 2019. The effects of fire disturbance on stream fish community structure, site fidelity, life history, and genetic relatedness in boreal stream ecosystems. Alaska Chapter American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Sitka, Alaska, 19-21 March, 2019.
  • Klobucar, D.D., and J.A. Falke. 2019. Gaging the importance: characterizing hydrologic regimes of headwater streams in changing boreal ecosystems. Alaska Chapter of the American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Sitka, Alaska, 19 – 21 March, 2019.
  • Klobucar, S.L., Falke, J.A., Rupp, T.S., Bieniek, P.A., Genet, H., and M.A. Lindgren. 2019. Integrating at the interface(s): modeling the effects of fire and climate change to support management and conservation of fish habitat and populations in Alaskan boreal forests. Alaska Chapter of the American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Sitka, Alaska, 19 – 21 March, 2019.
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Current Staff

Federal Staff: 3

Masters Students: 4

Phd Students: 3

Post Docs: 2

University Staff: 2

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 26

Scientific Publications: 108

Presentations: 179



Funding Agencies



Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Cooperators

  1. Alaska Department of Fish and Game
  2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  3. U.S. Geological Survey
  4. University of Alaska Fairbanks
  5. Wildlife Management Institute