Recovery and active layer changes following a tundra fire in northwestern Alaska
Document Type: Conference Proceedings
Author(s): Lawrence A. Johnson; Leslie A. Viereck
Publication Year: 1983

Cataloging Information

  • active layer
  • depth of thaw
  • erosion
  • fire
  • organic mat
  • permafrost
  • tundra fire
  • tussock
  • vegetation recovery
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: December 3, 2015
FRAMES Record Number: 2573


An upland tundra fire, started by lightning, burned 48 km2 near the Kokolik River (69¦ 30' N, 151¦ 59' W) in northwestern Alaska during late July and early August 1977. Permanent plots were established to monitor recovery of severely, moderately, and lightly burned areas as well as unburned tundra. During the following 5 years the original permanent plots and other portions of the burn were observed annually. Vegetative recovery was most rapid and active layer effects were least on the moist sedge-shrub tundra. Recovery was slower on a high-centered polygonal area and on severely burned tussock tundra. By August 1979 the sedge-shrub vegetation had largely recovered while both the polygonal ground and the tussock tundra were still readily recognizable as burned areas. Accelerated hydraulic and thermal erosion had occurred on some slopes, resulting in exposures of massive bodies of ground ice. Active layer thicknesses averaged 27 cm in the unburned areas and 35 cm within severely burned areas in August 1977 and reached a maximum at all but one site in August 1979. Depth of thaw decreased between 1979 and 1982 in the sedge-shrub tundra and in the lightly burned shrub tundra and remained at the same increased level through 1982 at all other sites.

Johnson, Lawrence A.; Viereck, Leslie A. 1983. Recovery and active layer changes following a tundra fire in northwestern Alaska. Permafrost: Fourth International Conference. National Academy Press. Washington, DC. pp. 543-547.