Synergistic Fire and Floodplain Solutions: quantifying the interaction of river restoration and wildfire

Wildfires are a major issue, increasing in frequency and strength globally. River management has historically dried floodplains by lowering water tables, threatening native biodiversity and increasing wildfire vulnerability. Therefore, a recent emphasis on restoring and re-wetting floodplains may have co-benefits in alleviating fire risks through reducing this 'tinderbox' effect. In 2020, a long-term floodplain restoration project on the South Fork McKenzie River, Oregon, USA, suffered a major burn during the ‘Holiday Farm Fires’ of September and October 2020. Although the fire burnt >60,000 ha in 36 hours, preliminary indications highlighted that the restored areas of the South Fork McKenzie were much less affected by the fire than the rest of the (unrestored) floodplain.

This dataset comprises a range of field (ie. macroinvertebrate and diatom samples, soil samples, bird counts, vegetation surveys) and remote sensing data (Sentinel 2-derived burn severity data) collected both immediately after the fire and several months afterwards, with a view to quantifying the extent to which the aquatic and riparian ecosystems and habitat of the restored section of the South Fork McKenzie fared in comparison to its non-restored counterparts. These data add to the growing body of evidence regarding ‘full floodplain’ (ie. so-called Stage 0) river restoration and its impacts.