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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): M. S. Bret-Harte; M. C. Mack; G. R. Shaver; D. C. Huebner; M. Johnston; C. A. Mojica; C. Pizano; J. A. Reiskind
Publication Date: August 2013

Fire causes dramatic short-term changes in vegetation and ecosystem function, and may promote rapid vegetation change by creating recruitment opportunities. Climate warming likely will increase the frequency of wildfire in the Arctic, where it is not common now. In 2007, the unusually severe Anaktuvuk River fire burned 1039 km2 of tundra on Alaska's North Slope. Four years later, we harvested plant biomass and soils across a gradient of burn severity, to assess recovery. In burned areas, above-ground net primary productivity of vascular plants equalled that in unburned areas, though total live biomass was less. Graminoid biomass had recovered to unburned levels, but shrubs had not. Virtually all vascular plant biomass had resprouted from surviving underground parts; no non-native species were seen. However, bryophytes were mostly disturbance-adapted species, and non-vascular biomass had recovered less than vascular plant biomass. Soil nitrogen availability did not differ between burned and unburned sites. Graminoids showed allocation changes consistent with nitrogen stress. These patterns are similar to those seen following other, smaller tundra fires. Soil nitrogen limitation and the persistence of resprouters will likely lead to recovery of mixed shrub-sedge tussock tundra, unless permafrost thaws, as climate warms, more extensively than has yet occurred. © 2013 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited..

Citation: Bret-Harte, M. S., M. C. Mack, G. R. Shaver, D. C. Huebner, M. Johnston, C. A. Mojica, C. Pizano, and J. A. Reiskind. 2013. The response of Arctic vegetation and soils following an unusually severe tundra fire. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, v. 368, no. 1624, p. 20490. 10.1098/rstb.2012.0490.

Cataloging Information

  • Alaskan tussock tundra
  • biomass
  • C - carbon
  • climate change
  • climate change
  • deciduous plants
  • elevation
  • evergreens
  • fire case histories
  • fire frequency
  • fire intensity
  • fire management
  • forbs
  • forest management
  • grasses
  • lichens
  • mosses
  • N - nitrogen
  • permafrost
  • pH
  • post fire recovery
  • roots
  • shrubs
  • soil management
  • soil N availability
  • soil nutrients
  • soil organic matter
  • soil temperature
  • statistical analysis
  • tundra
  • vegetation recovery
  • wildfires
Tall Timbers Record Number: 28372Location Status: Not in fileCall Number: Available thru ILL onlyAbstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 51489

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by Tall Timbers 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 Tall Timbers.