Wildfire in the taiga of Alaska
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Leslie A. Viereck
Publication Year: 1973

Cataloging Information

  • caribou
  • erosion
  • fire
  • fire management
  • hares
  • moose
  • nutrient cycling
  • soil
  • succession
  • suppression
  • taiga
  • wildlife
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: December 3, 2015
FRAMES Record Number: 5330


The taiga of Alaska consists of a vegetation mosaic resulting primarily from past wildfires. Today, both lightning- and man-caused wildfires burn an average of 400,000 hectares annually, creating vast areas of successional ecosystems. However, although the number of reported fires is increasing, fire control is becoming more effective in limiting the average size of fires and the total area burned. One of the important influences of fire in the taiga ecosystems is its effect on permafrost and the soil nutrient cycle. Construction of firelines in permafrost areas has a greater effect on soil erosion and siltation than does the fire itself. Some wildlife species, such as moose and snowshoe hare, depend on fire and its resultant successional plant communities, whereas fire may have deleterious effects on caribou winter range. Fire has both positive and negative effects on esthetic and recreational values. Fire has always been a part of the Alaskan taiga ecosystem; if it is totally excluded from the environment, some major ecological changes will result. Fire-suppression alternatives are discussed and additional research on fire effects suggested.

Online Link(s):
Viereck, Leslie A. 1973. Wildfire in the taiga of Alaska. Quaternary Research 3(3):465-495.