A JFSP Fire Science Exchange Network
Bringing People Together & Sharing Knowledge in the Northern Rockies

Fire, carbon, and climate: past and future

Date: May 3, 2011
Presenter(s): Michael G. Ryan

Fire has a short-term impact on the exchange of carbon between the forest and the atmosphere, but over a cycle of a stand-replacing fire and regrowth, the carbon balance is usually carbon neutral. The only ways to permanently lower forest carbon with fire or any other disturbance are if regeneration does not occur and the forest changes to grassland or shrubland or if the disturbance frequency is shorter than the time it takes to regrow the carbon lost in combustion or decomposition. Past fire return intervals for subalpine forests (200-300 years) were much longer than the time it took to recover the carbon lost (80 years). New models of fire occurrence and extent predict that large, stand replacing fires will be more common in the subalpine forests in the Northern Rockies. These models predict at least two 1988 Yellowstone-type fires in the next 40 years, with such fires increasing to a nearly annual occurrence by the end of the century. Predicting the effects of such a changed fire occurrence of carbon is difficult, but likely most of the carbon in the forests of the Northern Rockies in live and dead wood will be lost to the atmosphere by the end of the century. This webinar was hosted by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, the Joint Fire Science Program, and the International Association of Wildland Fire.

Topic(s): Fire Communication & Education, Public Perspectives of Fire Management, Fire Ecology, Fire & Climate, Carbon Sequestration
Ecosystem(s): None
Type: Webinar
NRFSN number: 13031
FRAMES RCS number: 10414
Record updated: Jul 31, 2018