Document


Title

Climatic change and disturbance by fire in boreal and sub-alpine forests
Document Type: Book Chapter
Author(s): R. Suffling
Editor(s): J. I. Holten; G. Paulsen; W. C. Oechel
Publication Year: 1993

Cataloging Information

Keyword(s):
  • Abies balsamea
  • Abies lasiocarpa
  • Abies spp.
  • Alberta
  • arthropods
  • biomass
  • boreal forests
  • Canada
  • catastrophic fires
  • Choristoneura fumiferana
  • climate change
  • distribution
  • disturbance
  • fire frequency
  • insects
  • land management
  • lightning caused fires
  • mountains
  • Ontario
  • Picea
  • Picea engelmannii
  • Picea glauca
  • Picea mariana
  • Pinus banksiana
  • Pinus contorta
  • regeneration
  • species diversity (plants)
  • subalpine forests
  • succession
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 36921
Tall Timbers Record Number: 11345
TTRS Location Status: Not 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.

Description

Studies of anticipated effects of global warming tend to concentrate on the physiological limits of individual organisms, and imputed modifications to biome distributions expresed as climax ecosystems. Changes in distributions of individual species and of tree species associations in boreal and sub-alpine forests also depend, however, on disturbance events like forest fire. These alter the absolute and relative reproductive success of different species, thus promoting renewed succession. Forest fire occurrence increases during climate warming so that, it is hypothesised, fire will be a major if not dominant agent in global warming effects on boreal and sub-alpine vegetation. Two examples are considered: 1) In the boreal forest of Ontario, the zonation of pine and spruce-fir forests can be explained by the amount of stand-replacing forest fire. Jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.) forests are fostered in southerly and westerly areas where fires are more common, and black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.), balsam fir (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.) and white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) are more common in the north and east, primarily because there is less fire there. 2) In sub-alpine forests of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, vertical zonation of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Dougl.) and alpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa (Hook) Nutt.)-Englemann spruce (Picea engelmannii (Parry) Engelm.) forests is affected by forest fire-return intervals. There is more fire at lower altitudes, so pine is dominant there. The return period and intensity of these fires is mediated primarily by summer climate, but also by avalanches which create natural fire breaks in mountain valleys. The return period and intensity of these fires is mediated primarily by summer climate, but also by avalanches which create natural fire breaks in mountain valleys. The return interval for avalanches is driven by winter climate, so that the emergent properties of the fire-avalanche system during climate warming are difficult to predict. It is concluded that climatically-driven disturbance events are a major way by which glocal warming will be manifested in boreal and sub-alpine vegetation change, and especially so where there is a spatial gradient in forest fire activity.

Citation:
Suffling, R. 1993. Climatic change and disturbance by fire in boreal and sub-alpine forests, in JI Holten, G Paulsen, and WC Oechel eds., Impacts of climatic change on natural ecosystems, with emphasis on boreal and arctic/alpine areas. Trondheim, Norway, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and the Directorate for Nature Management (DN), p. 105-121.