Predicting ecosystem resilience to fire from tree ring analysis in black spruce forests
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Xanthe J. Walker; Michelle C. Mack; Jill F. Johnstone
Publication Year: 2017

Cataloging Information

  • black spruce
  • boreal forest
  • Canada
  • climate change
  • dendrochronology
  • dendroecology
  • drought
  • drought stress
  • droughts
  • fire regimes
  • fire severity
  • global change
  • Picea mariana
  • post-fire regeneration
  • resilience
  • seedling regeneration
  • vegetation dynamics
  • vulnerability
  • wildfire
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: May 2, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 55737
Tall Timbers Record Number: 33811
TTRS Location Status: Not in file
TTRS Call Number: Available
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use

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.


Climate change has increased the occurrence, severity, and impact of disturbances on forested ecosystems worldwide, resulting in a need to identify factors that contribute to an ecosystem's resilience or capacity to recover from disturbance. Forest resilience to disturbance may decline with climate change if mature trees are able to persist under stressful environmental conditions that do not permit successful recruitment and survival after a disturbance. In this study, we used the change in proportional representation of black spruce pre- to post-fire as a surrogate for resilience. We explored links between patterns of resilience and tree ring signals of drought stress across topographic moisture gradients within the boreal forest. We sampled 72 recently (2004) burned stands of black spruce in interior Alaska (USA); the relative dominance of black spruce after fire ranged from almost no change (high resilience) to a 90% decrease (low resilience). Variance partitioning analysis indicated that resilience was related to site environmental characteristics and climate-growth responses, with no unique contribution of pre-fire stand composition. The largest shifts in post-fire species composition occurred in sites that experienced the compounding effects of pre-fire drought stress and shallow post-fire organic layer thickness. These sites were generally located at warmer and drier landscape positions, suggesting they are less resilient to disturbance than sites in cool and moist locations. Climate-growth responses can provide an estimate of stand environmental stress to climate change and as such are a valuable tool for predicting landscape variations in forest ecosystem resilience. © 2016 Springer Science+Business Media New York.

Online Link(s):
Walker, X. J., M. C. Mack, and J. F. Johnstone. 2017. Predicting ecosystem resilience to fire from tree ring analysis in black spruce forests. Ecosystems, v. 20, no. 6, p. 1137-1150. 10.1007/s10021-016-0097-5.