Alaska's changing fire regime - implications for the vulnerability of its boreal forests
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Eric S. Kasischke; David L. Verbyla; T. Scott Rupp; A. David McGuire; Karen A. Murphy; Randi R. Jandt; Jennifer L. Barnes; Elizabeth E. Hoy; Paul A. Duffy; Monika P. Calef; Merritt R. Turetsky
Publication Year: 2010

Cataloging Information

  • black spruce
  • black spruce forest
  • boreal forest
  • climate change
  • coniferous forests
  • deciduous forests
  • drainage
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • fire danger rating
  • fire frequency
  • fire management
  • fire regimes
  • fire size
  • fire suppression
  • fire vulnerability
  • fire weather
  • forest management
  • human caused fires
  • land management
  • lightning caused fires
  • mosses
  • Picea mariana
  • remote sensing
  • resilience
  • season of fire
  • sphagnum
  • spruce
  • suppression
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: September 1, 2020
FRAMES Record Number: 9477
Tall Timbers Record Number: 25276
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Journals - C
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.


A synthesis was carried out to examine Alaska's boreal forest fire regime. During the 2000s, an average of 767 000 ha x year-1 burned, 50% higher than in any previous decade since the 1940s. Over the past 60 years, there was a decrease in the number of lightning-ignited fires, an increase in extreme lightning-ignited fire events, an increase in human-ignited fires, and a decrease in the number of extreme human-ignited fire events. The fraction of area burned from human-ignited fires fell from 26% for the 1950s and 1960s to 5% for the 1990s and 2000s, a result from the change in fire policy that gave the highest suppression priorities to fire events that occurred near human settlements. The amount of area burned during late-season fires increased over the past two decades. Deeper burning of surface organic layers in black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP) forests occurred during late-growing-season fires and on more well-drained sites. These trends all point to black spruce forests becoming increasingly vulnerable to the combined changes of key characteristics of Alaska's fire regime, except on poorly drained sites, which are resistant to deep burning. The implications of these fire regime changes to the vulnerability and resilience of Alaska's boreal forests and land and fire management are discussed.

Kasischke, Eric S.; Verbyla, David L.; Rupp, T. Scott; McGuire, A. David; Murphy, Karen A.; Jandt, Randi; Barnes, Jennifer L.; Hoy, Elizabeth E.; Duffy, Paul A.; Calef, Monika; Turetsky, Merritt R. 2010. Alaska's changing fire regime - implications for the vulnerability of its boreal forests. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 40(7):1313-1324.