Short-interval fires (fires occurring within 50 years of one another or less) are increasing in Interior Alaska. The dominant tree species, black spruce (Picea mariana), plays an important role sequestering carbon and isolating frozen permafrost underneath but requires 50 years or more to re-establish and reach reproductive maturity. A new trend in reburning (fires occurring in short-intervals after an initial fire) is raising questions about future succession and carbon storage within boreal forests. Our project uses a suite of field, lab and modeling tools to examine how boreal forests are changing as a result of reburning. As a Ph.D. candidate on this project, I serve as one of the field ecologists, providing empirical data from study sites in Alaska that have reburned in new patterns.
Using GIS and historical aerial photography, we located two sites in Interior Alaska that have experienced 1, 2, or 3 fires in short-intervals of 50 years or less in overlapping perimeters. Each fire caused complete canopy mortality, killing off all mature black spruce present before the fire. We set up 50 individual plots between both sites and scattered across each fire perimeter where we measure tree regeneration, aboveground and soil carbon, fuel characteristics, understory community composition and a host of other variables.
My first paper from the project, detailing tree regeneration at the sites is available here.