Disturbance history of the Tanana River Basin in Alaska: Management implications
Document Type: Conference Proceedings
Author(s): James S. Roessler; Edmond C. Packee
Editor(s): W. Keith Moser; Cynthia F. Moser
Publication Year: 2000

Cataloging Information

  • arthropods
  • Betula
  • Betula papyrifera
  • biodiversity
  • black spruce
  • bottomland hardwood
  • diseases
  • disturbance
  • ecology
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • ecosystem management
  • education
  • fire management
  • forest management
  • forest products
  • fuel types
  • fuelwood
  • histories
  • history
  • human caused fires
  • hunting
  • insects
  • Larix laricina
  • Larix spp.
  • lightning caused fires
  • logging
  • mammals
  • mining
  • mortality
  • mosaic
  • Native Americans
  • Picea
  • Picea glauca
  • Picea mariana
  • Populus
  • Populus balsamifera
  • Populus tremuloides
  • presettlement fires
  • public information
  • riparian habitats
  • roads
  • Tanana River Basin
  • timber
  • understory vegetation
  • wood
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: March 23, 2021
FRAMES Record Number: 2962
Tall Timbers Record Number: 12109
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Tall Timbers shelf
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


The Tanana River basin in interior Alaska occupies approximately 11.9 million hectares. Forests of the basin consist of white or black spruce (Picea glauca, P. mariana), tamarack (Larix laricina), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), and balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera). The forests have a disturbance history that has been largely ignored in the planning process. The objective of this paper was to document the type, magnitude, and impact of disturbance on the development of the current forest mosaic. Methodology included archival research and ground truthing archival information. One case study (Tolovana River) is presented. Documented disturbance in the basin is more extensive and varied than previously believed. Athabascan Indians and non-Athabascans used fire extensively for controlling mosquitoes and gnats, hunting, and signaling, as well as for houses, domestic heating, and cooking. Both set fires intentionally and accidentally. Wood was burned as fuel for steamboats and railroad locomotives, to produce commercial electricity, and to melt permafrost for mining. Wood was used for ties and trestles, corduroy roads, mine timbers, piling, planking, and lumber. Timber harvest often extended to the stream edge: it was often followed by burning. Smoke from fires was common during the summer. Evidence was found to suggest that timber harvest in the first half of the twentieth century greatly exceeded current levels of harvest in the interior. The importance of such disturbance is discussed in terms of resource planning and fire management.

Online Link(s):
Link to this document (610 KB; pdf)
Roessler, James S.; Packee, Edmond C. 2000. Disturbance history of the Tanana River Basin in Alaska: Management implications. Proceedings of the Annual Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference. Fire and forest ecology: innovative silviculture and vegetation management. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station. pp. 46-57.