The North Fire broke out in the Tahoe National Forest on Sept. 3, 2018k forcing campers to evacuate.

Placer County Sheriff Department

Smoky Skies From Wildfires Are Good For Fish, Study Concludes

Matt Bigler
October 11, 2018 - 10:04 pm

There is at least one beneficial side effect from increased wildfire activity in California.  The extra smoke in the air may be good for threatened fish populations, according to new research.

Looking at extensive data from high wildfire years, scientists found that while making it harder to breathe, smoke cools the air by reflecting sunlight. 

The lower temperatures also extend into streams and rivers in the Klamath River Basin in Northern California. That has a beneficial impact on fish, especially the threatened Chinook and Coho salmon. 

By blocking the sun, smoke allows the water to cool and keep fish healthier by helping them ward off stress-related diseases.

“When that water temperature comes down, then those fish are able to redistribute and have less disease influences,” Frank Lake, a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, said.

The research, published in the journal Water Resources Research, was inspired by Native American tribes, who historically noticed drops in river temperature during periods of heavy smoke.

Lake says research like this will benefit the state as we relearn how to live with fire as part of a natural process.

“Last year, yes, was a catastrophic fire season in California for many residents due to loss of life and property, but also ecologically, there’s a beneficial role of fire,” he said. “This is just one way of looking at the beneficial effects of wildfire smoke.”

Written by Brian Krans.