Twentieth-century climate change, fire suppression, and forest production and decomposition in northwestern Minnesota

Journal Article (Journal Article)

In mixed-conifer stands of Itasca State Park, spatial and temporal patterns of fire occurrence and forest composition over the last 150 yr determined by stratigraphic charcoal, fire-scar, tree-ring and pollen analyses in separate studies provide evidence for vegetation and fire relationships. Water balances constructed from temperature and precipitation data collected since 1840 were used to model fire probability and intensity of burn before fire suppression which began in 1910. Existing patterns of biomass accumulation in forest-floor, herb, shrub and tree components were compared with fire history and topographic variability to provide a spatial perspective on fire effects. Humus, litter, shrubs and herb cover were less abundant and more variable spatially and temporally before fire suppression. Spatial variabilty in forest-floor organic matter, which resulted from different fire frequencies in different vegetation and topographic settings before fire suppression, was largely gone by 1920 as a result of fire suppression. Had fire suppression not been instituted in 1910, fire frequency would have increased by 20-40% in the 20th century because of warmer and drier conditions. Forest-floor organic matter would have been largely depleted by frequent and severe fires exposing mineral soils, particularly during the drought years of the 1930s. Herb biomass would have increased, shrubs would have been more variable, and tree seedling establishment would have been substantially altered. Time required for buildup of fuels limits the extent to which increased moisture deficits increase fire frequency. -from Author

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Clark, JS

Published Date

  • January 1, 1990

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 20 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 219 - 232

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0045-5067

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1139/x90-031

Citation Source

  • Scopus