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Type: Dissertation
Author(s): Paul A. Duffy
Publication Date: 2006

The boreal forest covers 12 million km2 of the northern hemisphere and contains roughly 40% of the world's reactive soil carbon. The Northern high latitudes have experienced significant warming over the past century and there is a pressing need to characterize the response of the disturbance regime in the boreal forest to climatic change. The interior Alaskan boreal forest contains approximately 60 million burnable hectares and, relative to the other disturbance mechanisms that exist in Alaska, fire dominates at the landscape-scale. In order to assess the impact of forecast climate change on the structure and function of the Alaskan boreal forest, the interactions among climate, fire and vegetation need to be quantified. The results of this work demonstrate that monthly weather and teleconnection indices explain the majority of observed variability in annual area burned in Alaska from 1950-2003. Human impacts and fire-vegetation interactions likely account for a significant portion of the remaining variability. Analysis of stand age distributions indicate that anthropogenic disturbance in the early 1900's has left a distinct, yet localized impact. Additionally, we analyzed remotely sensed burn severity data to better understand interactions among fire, vegetation and topography. These results show a significant relationship between burn severity and vegetation type in flat landscapes but not in topographically complex landscapes, and collectively strengthen the argument that differential flammability of vegetation plays a significant role in fire-vegetation interactions. These results were used to calibrate a cellular automata model based on the current conceptual model of interactions among weather, fire and vegetation. The model generates spatially explicit maps of simulated stand ages at 1 km resolution across interior Alaska, and output was validated using observed stand age distributions. Analysis of simulation output suggests that significant temporal variability of both the mean and variance of the stand age distribution is an intrinsic property of the stand age distributions of the Alaskan boreal forest. As a consequence of this non-stationarity, we recommend that simulation based methods be used to analyze the impact of forecast climatic change on the structure and function of the Alaskan boreal forest.

Online Links
Citation: Duffy, Paul A. 2006. Interactions among climate, fire, and vegetation in the Alaska boreal forest. Ph.D. Dissertation. Fairbanks, AK: University of Alaska. 143 pp.

Cataloging Information

Topics:
Climate    Fire Effects    Models    Weather
Regions:
Keywords:
  • boreal forest
  • burn severity
  • carbon budget
  • climate change
  • flammability
  • global warming
  • interactions
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (https://www.frames.gov/contact)
FRAMES Record Number: 6399