Natural fire frequency for the eastern Canadian boreal forest: consequences for sustainable forestry
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Yves Bergeron; Sylvie Gauthier; Victor G. Kafka; Patrick Lefort; Daniel Lesieur
Publication Year: 2001

Cataloging Information

  • Abies balsamea
  • age classes
  • Betula papyrifera
  • boreal forests
  • Canada
  • Choristoneura fumiferana
  • clearcutting
  • climate change
  • cutting
  • dendrochronology
  • distribution
  • disturbance
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • fire frequency
  • fire intensity
  • fire size
  • forest management
  • hardwood forests
  • lightning caused fires
  • logging
  • mosaic
  • old growth forests
  • Ontario
  • overstory
  • Picea glauca
  • Picea mariana
  • pine forests
  • Pinus banksiana
  • Populus tremuloides
  • Quebec
  • season of fire
  • species diversity (plants)
  • stand characteristics
  • statistical analysis
  • Thuja occidentalis
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: May 23, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 37994
Tall Timbers Record Number: 12528
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Journals-C
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.


Given that fire is the most important disturbance of the boreal forest, climatically induced changes in fire frequency (i.e., area burnt per year) can have important consequences on the resulting forest mosaic age-class distribution and composition. Using archives and dendroecological data we reconstructed the fire frequency in four large sectors along a transect from eastern Ontario to central Quebec. Results showed a dramatic decrease in fire frequency that began in the mid-l9th century and has been accentuated during the 20th century. Although all areas showed a similar temporal decrease in area burned, we observed a gradual increase in fire frequency from the West to Abitibi east, followed by a slight decrease in central Quebec. The global warming that has been occurring since the end of the Little Ice Age (~1850) may have created a climate less prone to large forest fires in the eastern boreal forest of North America. This interpretation is corroborated by predictions of a decrease in forest fires for that region of the boreal forest in the future. A longer fire cycle (i.e., the time needed to burn an area equivalent to the study area) has important consequences for sustainable forest management of the boreal forest of eastern Canada. When considering the important proportion of overmature and old-growth stands in the landscape resulting from the elongation of the fire cycles, it becomes difficult to justify clear-cutting practices over all the entire area as well as short rotations as a means to emulate natural disturbances. Alternative practices involving the uses of variable proportion of clear, partial, and selective cutting are discussed.©National Research Council of Canada. Abstract reproduced by permission.

Online Link(s):
Bergeron, Y., S. Gauthier, V. Kafka, P. Lefort, and D. Lesieur. 2001. Natural fire frequency for the eastern Canadian boreal forest: consequences for sustainable forestry. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, v. 31, no. 3, p. 384-391.