Potential shifts in dominant forest cover in interior Alaska driven by variations in fire severity
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Kirsten Barrett; A. David McGuire; Elizabeth E. Hoy; Eric S. Kasischke
Publication Year: 2011

Cataloging Information

  • air temperature
  • black spruce
  • black spruce
  • boreal forest
  • boreal forests
  • carbon
  • climate change
  • climate change
  • coniferous forests
  • cover
  • deciduous forests
  • dominance (ecology)
  • droughts
  • duff
  • elevation
  • fine fuels
  • fire frequency
  • fire intensity
  • fire management
  • fire severity
  • fire size
  • forest management
  • fuel moisture
  • humidity
  • land cover change
  • organic layer of soil
  • Picea mariana
  • Picea mariana
  • post fire recovery
  • precipitation
  • rate of spread
  • regeneration
  • remote sensing
  • sloping terrain
  • soil organic matter
  • succession
  • successional shifts
  • wildfires
  • wind
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: May 6, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 49926
Tall Timbers Record Number: 26425
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Journals - E
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.


Large fire years in which >1% of the landscape burns are becoming more frequent in the Alaskan (USA) interior, with four large fire years in the past 10 years, and 79 000 km2 (17% of the region) burned since 2000. We modeled fire severity conditions for the entire area burned in large fires during a large fire year (2004) to determine the factors that are most important in estimating severity and to identify areas affected by deep-burning fires. In addition to standard methods of assessing severity using spectral information, we incorporated information regarding topography, spatial pattern of burning, and instantaneous characteristics such as fire weather and fire radiative power. Ensemble techniques using regression trees as a base learner were able to determine fire severity successfully using spectral data in concert with other relevant geospatial data. This method was successful in estimating average conditions, but it underestimated the range of severity.This new approach was used to identify black spruce stands that experienced intermediate- to high-severity fires in 2004 and are therefore susceptible to a shift in regrowth toward deciduous dominance or mixed dominance. Based on the output of the severity model, we estimate that 39% (~4000 km2) of all burned black spruce stands in 2004 had <10 cm of residual organic layer and may be susceptible a postfire shift in plant functional type dominance, as well as permafrost loss. If the fraction of area susceptible to deciduous regeneration is constant for large fire years, the effect of such years in the most recent decade has been to reduce black spruce stands by 4.2% and to increase areas dominated or co-dominated by deciduous forest stands by 20%. Such disturbance-driven modifications have the potential to affect the carbon cycle and climate system at regional to global scales. © 2011 by the Ecological Society of America. Abstract reproduced by permission.

Online Link(s):
Barrett, K., A. D. McGuire, E. E. Hoy, and E. S. Kasischke. 2011. Potential shifts in dominant forest cover in interior Alaska driven by variations in fire severity. Ecological Applications, v. 21, no. 7, p. 2380-2396.