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Picea glauca (white spruce)

Author(s): Ilana L. Abrahamson
Year Published: 2015

Fire Effects and Management: Fire of any severity generally kills white spruce. After fire, white spruce typically establishes from seed from trees along fire edges or unburned trees within the burn area. Establishment depends on seed availability, seedbed conditions, fire characteristics, site and soil characteristics, and weather. White spruce abundance may be drastically reduced after fire because of high tree mortality and limited postfire recruitment. White spruce forests may be highly flammable, although less so than black spruce forests. Among white spruce sites, floodplain sites are less flammable than upland sites. Stands with more hardwoods are less flammable than those with a fewer hardwoods. Across white spruce's distribution, fires tend to be more frequent in drier western regions than in wetter eastern regions. White spruce tends to be limited to areas that burn infrequently; white spruce communities often have less frequent fire than other boreal forest types. The longest fire-rotation intervals in the western boreal region are likely in floodplain white spruce stands, where they may be about 300 years. Stands experience crown, surface, and ground fires, and nearly all fires in white spruce communities are stand-replacement. Across a landscape, white spruce communities often display a mosaic of unburned patches and burned patches with stand replacement. Most fires in white spruce stands are small, but large wildfires occurring in extreme fire years account for most acreage burned. Across Arctic and boreal regions, the area burned, fire behavior, and fire severity in white spruce-dominated communities will likely increase with global climate changes, although predicted future fire occurrence varies spatially throughout the region. Prescribed fire is often used to consume logging slash, improve seedbed conditions, and promote regeneration after white spruce stands are logged. However, white spruce regeneration is variable and often inadequate, because prescribed fires often fail to consume sufficient organic material to create large areas of suitable seedbed.

Citation: Abrahamson, Ilana. 2015. Picea glauca, white spruce. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Vegetation
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Synthesis
NRFSN number: 18261
Record updated: Nov 5, 2018