Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service
  
Treesearch

Research & Development Treesearch

 
Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Northern
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help
 

Science.gov - We Participate


USA.gov  Government Made Easy


Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.
20090-6090

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (4.0 MB)

Title: Changes in fire regime break the legacy lock on successional trajectories in Alaskan boreal forest

Author: Johnstone, Jill F.; Hollingsworth, Teresa N.; Chapin, F. Stuart III; Mack, Michelle C.;

Date: 2009

Source: Global Change Biology. 16(4): 1281-1295

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Predicting plant community responses to changing environmental conditions is a key element of forecasting and mitigating the effects of global change. Disturbance can play an important role in these dynamics, by initiating cycles of secondary succession and generating opportunities for communities of long-lived organisms to reorganize in alternative configurations. This study used landscape-scale variations in environmental conditions, stand structure, and disturbance from an extreme fire year in Alaska to examine how these factors affected successional trajectories in boreal forests dominated by black spruce. Because fire intervals in interior Alaska are typically too short to allow relay succession, the initial cohorts of seedlings that recruit after fire largely determine future canopy composition. Consequently, in a dynamically stable landscape, postfire tree seedling composition should resemble that of the prefire forest stands, with little net change in tree composition after fire. Seedling recruitment data from 90 burned stands indicated that postfire establishment of black spruce was strongly linked to environmental conditions and was highest at sites that were moist and had high densities of prefire spruce. Although deciduous broadleaf trees were absent from most prefire stands, deciduous trees recruited from seed at many sites and were most abundant at sites where the fires burned severely, consuming much of the surface organic layer. Comparison of pre- and postfire tree composition in the burned stands indicated that the expected trajectory of black spruce self-replacement was typical only at moist sites that burned with low fire severity. At severely burned sites, deciduous trees dominated the postfire tree seedling community, suggesting these sites will follow alternative, deciduous-dominated trajectories of succession. Increases in the severity of boreal fires with climate warming may catalyze shifts to an increasingly deciduous-dominated landscape, substantially altering landscape dynamics and ecosystem services in this part of the boreal forest.

Keywords: Betula neoalaskana, boosted regression trees, composite burn index, fire severity, Picea mariana, Populus tremuloides, postfire succession, seedling recruitment, topography

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

XML: View XML

Citation:


Johnstone, J.F.; Hollingsworth, T.N.; Chapin, F.S., III; Mack, M.C. 2009. Changes in fire regime break the legacy lock on successional trajectories in Alaskan boreal forest. Global Change Biology. 16(4): 1281-1295.

 


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.