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Large fires or small fires, will they differ in affecting shifts in species composition and distributions under climate change?

March 16, 2022

Climate change is expected to increase fire activity, which has the potential to accelerate climate-induced shifts in species composition and distribution in the boreal-temperate ecotone. Wildfire can kill resident trees, and thus provide establishment opportunities for migrating tree species. However, the role of fire size and its interactions with tree species with varied life-history attributes in driving climate-induced shifts is not understood. Future fire regimes could be characterized by many small fires or a few large fires. Large and small fires create and regulate distinct burn patterns, which may influence tree-species responses and post-fire successional trajectories. Here we investigated the effects of future fire-regime variability on the boreal-temperate ecotone of northeastern China under climate change using a coupled forest dynamic model (LANDIS PRO) and ecosystem process model (LINKAGES). We simulated fire regimes using the LANDIS PRO fire module. We designed two fire scenarios (frequent, small fires and infrequent, large fires) to represent different fire regimes in terms of fire size. Results showed fire-catalyzed, climate-induced transitions from boreal to pioneer and temperate forest communities. Frequent, small fires resulted in 13% and 23% higher increases in pioneer and temperate species respectively, relative to infrequent, large fires. Therefore, species composition shifts were faster following frequent, small fires than infrequent, large fires. The results can help policymakers and forest managers determine tradeoffs among strategies to mitigate or adapt to climate change under altered fire regimes.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Large fires or small fires, will they differ in affecting shifts in species composition and distributions under climate change?
DOI 10.1016/j.foreco.2022.120131
Authors Wenru Xu, Hong S. He, Chao Huang, Shengwu Duan, Todd J. Hawbaker, Paul D. Henne, Yu Liang, Zhiliang Zhu
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Forest Ecology and Management
Series Number
Index ID 70229727
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Denver Federal Center