The footprint of Alaskan tundra fires during the past half-century: implications for surface properties and radiative forcing
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Adrian V. Rocha; Michael M. Loranty; Philip E. Higuera; Michelle C. Mack; Feng Sheng Hu; Benjamin M. Jones; Amy L. Breen; Edward B. Rastetter; Scott J. Goetz; Gaius R. Shaver
Publication Year: 2012

Cataloging Information

  • albedo
  • climate change
  • climate change
  • cover
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • EVI
  • fire management
  • fire scar analysis
  • forest management
  • radiation
  • radiative forcing
  • remote sensing
  • soil temperature
  • tundra
  • tundra
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: January 30, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 51276
Tall Timbers Record Number: 28105
TTRS Location Status: Not in file
TTRS Call Number: Available
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.


Recent large and frequent fires above the Alaskan arctic circle have forced a reassessment of the ecological and climatological importance of fire in arctic tundra ecosystems. Here we provide a general overview of the occurrence, distribution, and ecological and climate implications of Alaskan tundra fires over the past half-century using spatially explicit climate, fire, vegetation and remote sensing datasets for Alaska. Our analyses highlight the importance of vegetation biomass and environmental conditions in regulating tundra burning, and demonstrate that most tundra ecosystems are susceptible to burn, providing the environmental conditions are right. Over the past two decades, fire perimeters above the arctic circle have increased in size and importance, especially on the North Slope, indicating that future wildfire projections should account for fire regime changes in these regions. Remote sensing data and a literature review of thaw depths indicate that tundra fires have both positive and negative implications for climatic feedbacks including a decadal increase in albedo radiative forcing immediately after a fire, a stimulation of surface greenness and a persistent long-term (>10 year) increase in thaw depth. In order to address the future impact of tundra fires on climate, a better understanding of the control of tundra fire occurrence as well as the long-term impacts on ecosystem carbon cycling will be required. © 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd. Printed in the UK.

Online Link(s):
Rocha, A. V. et al. 2012. The footprint of Alaskan tundra fires during the past half-century: implications for surface properties and radiative forcing. Environmental Research Letters, v. 7, no. 4, p. 044039 [online article no.]-8 pp [total pages]. 10.1088/1748-9326/7/4/044039.