How does increased fire frequency affect carbon loss from fire? A case study in the northern boreal forest
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Carissa D. Brown; Jill F. Johnstone
Publication Year: 2011

Cataloging Information

  • adventitious root method
  • adventitious roots
  • age classes
  • biomass
  • biomass
  • black spruce
  • boreal forests
  • burning intervals
  • C - carbon
  • Canada
  • carbon loss
  • climate change
  • coniferous forests
  • droughts
  • duff
  • fine fuels
  • fire frequency
  • fire management
  • fire return interval
  • forest management
  • fuel moisture
  • global warming
  • mosaic
  • overstory
  • Picea mariana
  • post-fire recovery
  • rate of spread
  • roots
  • sloping terrain
  • soil management
  • soil nutrients
  • soil organic layer
  • soil organic matter
  • stand characteristics
  • statistical analysis
  • surface fuels
  • wildfires
  • Yukon
  • Yukon Territory
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: October 3, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 49938
Tall Timbers Record Number: 26440
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Journals - I
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.


Fire frequency is expected to increase due to climate warming in many areas, particularly the boreal forests. An increase in fire frequency may have important effects on the global carbon cycle by decreasing the size of boreal carbon stores. Our objective was to quantify and compare the amount of carbon consumed during and the amount of carbon remaining following fire in black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP) forests burned after long v. short intervals. We hypothesized that stands with a shortened fire return interval would have a higher carbon consumption than those experiencing a historically typical fire return interval. Using field measurements of forest canopy, soil organic horizons and adventitious roots, we reconstructed pre-fire stand conditions to estimate the biomass lost in each fire and the effects on post-fire residual carbon stores. We found evidence of a higher loss of carbon following two fire events that recurred after a short interval, resulting in a much greater total reduction in carbon relative to pre-fire or mature stand conditions. Consequently, carbon storage across disturbance intervals was dramatically reduced following short-interval burns. Recovery of these stores would require a subsequent lengthening of the fire cycle, which appears unlikely under future climate scenarios.

Online Link(s):
Brown, Carissa D.; Johnstone, Jill F. 2011. How does increased fire frequency affect carbon loss from fire? A case study in the northern boreal forest. International Journal of Wildland Fire 20(7):829-837.