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Alaska's changing fire regime--implications for the vulnerability of its boreal forestsAuthor(s): Eric S. Kasischke; David L. Verbyla; T. Scott Rupp; A. David McGuire; Karen A. Murphy; Randi Jandt; Jennifer L. Barnes; Elizabeth E. Hoy; Paul A. Duffy; Monika Calef; Merritt R. Turetsky
Source: Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 40: 1313-1324
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
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DescriptionA synthesis was carried out to examine Alaska's boreal forest fire regime. During the 2000s, an average of 767 000 ha×year-1 burned, 50% higher than in any previous decade since the 1940s. Over the past 60 years, there was a decrease in the number of lightning-ignited fires, an increase in extreme lightning-ignited fire events, an increase in human-ignited fires, and a decrease in the number of extreme human-ignited fire events. The fraction of area burned from human-ignited fires fell from 26% for the 1950s and 1960s to 5% for the 1990s and 2000s, a result from the change in fire policy that gave the highest suppression priorities to fire events that occurred near human settlements. The amount of area burned during late-season fires increased over the past two decades. Deeper burning of surface organic layers in black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP) forests occurred during late-growing-season fires and on more well-drained sites. These trends all point to black spruce forests becoming increasingly vulnerable to the combined changes of key characteristics of Alaska's fire regime, except on poorly drained sites, which are resistant to deep burning. The implications of these fire regime changes to the vulnerability and resilience of Alaska's boreal forests and land and fire management are discussed.
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CitationKasischke, Eric S.; Verbyla, David L.; Rupp, T. Scott; McGuire, A. David; Murphy, Karen A.; Jandt, Randi; Barnes, Jennifer L.; Hoy, Elizabeth E.; Duffy, Paul A.; Calef, Monika; Turetsky, Merritt R. 2010. Alaska's changing fire regime--implications for the vulnerability of its boreal forests. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 40: 1313-1324.
Keywordsfire, Alaska, boreal forest, resilience
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