Fire, global warming, and the carbon balance of boreal forests
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Eric S. Kasischke; Norman L. Christensen Jr.; Brian J. Stocks
Publication Year: 1995

Cataloging Information

  • biomass
  • boreal forest
  • Canada
  • carbon
  • carbon cycle
  • climate change
  • distribution
  • fire
  • fire frequency
  • fire intensity
  • fire models
  • fire regimes
  • global warming
  • nutrient cycling
  • soil nutrients
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 4430
Tall Timbers Record Number: 9914
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Journals-E
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.


Fire strongly influences carbon cycling and storage in boreal forests. In the near-term, if global warming occurs, the frequency and intensity of fires in boreal forests are likely to increase significantly. A sensitivity analysis on the relationship between fire and carbon storage in the living-biomass and ground-layer compartments of boreal forests was performed to determine how the carbon stocks would be expected to change as a result of global warming. A model was developed to study this sensitivity. The model shows if the annual area burned in boreal forests increases by 50%, as predicted by some studies, then the amount of carbon stored in the ground layer would decrease between 3.5 and 5.6 kg/m^2, and the amount of carbon stored in the living biomass would increase by 1.2 kg/m^2. There would be a net loss of carbon in boreal forests between 2.3 and 4.4 kg/m^2, or 27.1-51.9 Pg on a global scale. Because the carbon in the ground layer is lost more quickly than carbon is accumulated in living biomass, this could lead to a short-term release of carbon over the next 50-100 yr at a rate of 0.33-0.8 Pg/yr, dependent on the distribution of carbon between organic and mineral soil in the ground layer (which is presently not well-understood) and the increase in fire frequency caused by global warming.

Online Link(s):
Kasischke, Eric S.; Christensen Jr., Norman L.; Stocks, Brian J. 1995. Fire, global warming, and the carbon balance of boreal forests. Ecological Applications 5(2):437-451.