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Are American boreal forest fires worse than tiaga forest fires in Eurasia?

Blog Post created by faithberry Employee on Feb 25, 2015

A research project completed by Woods Hole Research Center scientists Brendan Rogers, Amber J. Soja, Michael L. Goulden and James T Randerson that was a comparative analysis of boreal fires in America versus those that occur in Eurasia, came up with some interesting data, conclusions and observations regarding carbon and energy flow. 

According to Wikipedia, a boreal forest or tiaga in Eurasia (the world’s largest biome) is, “is a biome characterized by coniferous forests consisting mostly of pines, spruces and larches.  It is found throughout the high northern latitudes, between the tundra, and the temperate forest, from about 50°N to 70°N, but with considerable regional variation.” These forests are located in the countries of Russia, Mongolia, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Siberia wildfire Canada

The picture on the left is of a lower intensity surface fire which is typical of tiaga forests in Eurasia (Photo is by Douglas Mc Cray on the Woods Hole website). The picture on the right is a high intensity crown fire in Canada. Photo by Brian Stocks of the Woods Hole website)

According to the researchers, “Wildfires are common in boreal forests around the globe and strongly influence ecosystem processes. However, North American forests support more high-intensity crown fires than Eurasia, where lower-intensity surface fires are common. These two types of fire can result in different net effects on climate as a consequence of their contrasting impacts on terrestrial albedo and carbon stocks. Eurasian fires were less intense, destroyed less live vegetation, killed fewer trees and generated a smaller negative shortwave forcing. As fire weather conditions were similar across continents, we suggest that different fire dynamics between the two continents resulted from their dominant tree species. In particular, species that have evolved to spread and be consumed by crown fires as part of their life cycle dominate North American boreal forests. In contrast, tree species that have evolved to resist and suppress crown fires dominate Eurasian boreal forests. We conclude that species-level traits must be considered in global evaluations of the effects of fire on emissions and climate.”

Boreal Forest Fire Intensity map
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The map above was found on the article, "Why America Has Stronger Forest Fires than Elsewhere in the World" by Ria Misra"

This information may be helpful in planning and preparing for wildfire events in these areas of North America.  What are your thoughts?

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