Resilience of Boreal Forest Systems: Post-fire Recovery of Carbon in the Northwest Territories, Canada

Bill, Kristen
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University of Guelph

Recent shifts in wildfire activity in regions of boreal North America indicate decreased resiliency of carbon pools and forest state. Here, I quantify the initial response and long-term recovery of belowground carbon pools to wildfire across various vegetation trajectories in ~140,000km2 area of the Northwest Territories, Canada, across 502 stands ranging from 1-100 years post-fire. Recovery of soil organic carbon depth and stocks post-fire are regulated primarily by time, moisture level, and their interaction. Hydric sites store more carbon than mesic and dry sites, and rates of post-fire soil carbon accumulation are slower in wetter stands than in mesic or dry stands. My results also suggest that shifts in vegetation state are likely to reduce soil organic carbon depth and stocks during the fire-free period. By modelling across gradients of fire history, hydrology, and vegetation dominance, we can predict the short- and long-term consequences of wildfire for ecosystem carbon behaviour.

Soil organic Carbon, Ecosystem Resilience, Boreal Forest, Fire