• The role of fire in the carbon dynamics of the boreal forest

      Balshi, Michael S. (2007-12)
      The boreal forest contains large reserves of carbon, and across this region wildfire is a common occurrence. To improve the understanding of how wildfire influences the carbon dynamics of this region, methods were developed to incorporate the spatial and temporal effects of fire into the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM). The historical role of fire on carbon dynamics of the boreal region was evaluated within the context of ecosystem responses to changing atmospheric CO₂ and climate. These results show that the role of historical fire on boreal carbon dynamics resulted in a net carbon sink; however, fire plays a major role in the interannual and decadal scale variation of source/sink relationships. To estimate the effects of future fire on boreal carbon dynamics, spatially and temporally explicit empirical relationships between climate and fire were quantified. Fuel moisture, monthly severity rating, and air temperature explained a significant proportion of observed variability in annual area burned. These relationships were used to estimate annual area burned for future scenarios of climate change and were coupled to TEM to evaluate the role of future fire on the carbon dynamics of the North American boreal region for the 21st Century. Simulations with TEM indicate that boreal North America is a carbon sink in response to CO₂ fertilization, climate variability, and fire, but an increase in fire leads to a decrease in the sink strength. While this study highlights the importance of fire on carbon dynamics in the boreal region, there are uncertainties in the effects of fire in TEM simulations. These uncertainties are associated with sparse fire data for northern Eurasia, uncertainty in estimating carbon consumption, and difficulty in verifying assumptions about the representation of fires that occurred prior to the start of the historical fire record. Future studies should incorporate the role of dynamic vegetation to more accurately represent post-fire successional processes, incorporate fire severity parameters that change in time and space, and integrate the role of other disturbances and their interactions with future fire regimes.
    • The Role Of Fire In The Carbon Dynamics Of The Boreal Forest

      Balshi, Michael S.; McGuire, A. David (2007)
      The boreal forest contains large reserves of carbon and across this region, wildfire is a common occurrence. To improve the understanding of how wildfire influences the carbon dynamics of this region, methods were developed to incorporate the spatial and temporal effects of fire into the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM). The historical role of fire on carbon dynamics of the boreal region was evaluated within the context of ecosystem responses to changing atmospheric CO2 and climate. These results show that the role of historical fire on boreal carbon dynamics resulted in a net sink of carbon, however, fire plays a major role in the interannual and decadal scale variation of source/sink relationships. To estimate the effects of future fire on boreal carbon dynamics, spatially and temporally explicit empirical relationships between climate and fire were quantified. Fuel moisture, monthly severity rating, and air temperature explained a significant proportion of observed variability in annual area burned. These relationships were used to estimate annual area burned for future scenarios of climate change and were coupled to TEM to evaluate the role of future fire on the carbon dynamics of the North American boreal region for the 21st century. Simulations with TEM indicate that boreal North America is a carbon sink in response to CO2 fertilization, climate variability, and fire, but an increase in fire leads to a decrease in the sink strength. While this study highlights the importance of fire on carbon dynamics in the boreal region, there are uncertainties in the effects of fire in simulations with TEM. These uncertainties are associated with sparse fire data for northern Eurasia, uncertainty in estimating carbon consumption, and difficulty in verifying assumptions about the representation of fires that occurred prior to the start of the historical fire record. Future studies should incorporate the role of dynamic vegetation to more accurately represent post-fire successional processes, incorporate fire severity parameters that change in time and space, and integrate the role of other disturbances and their interactions with future fire regime.