Fire history of white and Lutz spruce forests on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, over the last two millennia as determined from soil charcoal
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Edward E. Berg; R. Scott Anderson
Publication Year: 2006

Cataloging Information

  • catastrophic fires
  • charcoal
  • coniferous forests
  • dead fuels
  • dendrochronology
  • Dendroctonus
  • Dendroctonus rufipennis
  • fire frequency
  • fire management
  • fire regimes
  • forest management
  • fuel breaks
  • fuel management
  • fuel types
  • ignition
  • insects
  • Kenai Peninsula
  • Lutz spruce
  • paleoecology
  • Picea
  • Picea glauca
  • Picea glauca
  • Picea sitchensis
  • Picea x lutzii
  • plant diseases
  • sedimentation
  • soil charcoal
  • soil nutrients
  • spruce bark beetle
  • statistical analysis
  • white spruce
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 3688
Tall Timbers Record Number: 19683
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Fire File
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, 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 presence of over 429,000 ha of forest with spruce (Picea spp.) recently killed by spruce beetles (Dendroctonus rufipennis) on the Kenai Peninsula has raised the specter of catastrophic wildfire. Dendrochronological evidence indicated that spruce beetle outbreaks occurred on average every 50 years in these forests. We used 121 radiocarbon-dated soil charcoal samples collected from throw mounds of recently blown over trees to reconstruct the regional fire history for the last ca. 2500 years and found no relation between fire activity and past spruce beetle outbreaks. Soil charcoal data suggest that upland forests of white (Picea glauca) and Lutz (Picea x lutzii) spruce have not on average burned for 600 years (time-since-fire range 90 to ~1500 years, at 22 sites) and that the mean fire interval was 400-600 years. It would thus appear that 10 or more spruce beetle outbreaks can occur for every cycle of fire in these forests. We caution, however, that a trend of warmer summers coupled with an increasing human population and associated sources of ignitions may create a greater fire risk in all fuel types than was present during the time period covered by our study. We suggest that forest management focus on creating fuel breaks between valued human infrastructure and all types of forest fuels, both green and dead.

Online Link(s):
Berg, Edward E.; Anderson, R. Scott. 2006. Fire history of white and Lutz spruce forests on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, over the last two millennia as determined from soil charcoal. Forest Ecology and Management 227(3):275-283.