Articles | Volume 9, issue 10
Research article
15 Oct 2012
Research article |  | 15 Oct 2012

Cajander larch (Larix cajanderi) biomass distribution, fire regime and post-fire recovery in northeastern Siberia

L. T. Berner, P. S. A. Beck, M. M. Loranty, H. D. Alexander, M. C. Mack, and S. J. Goetz

Abstract. Climate change and land-use activities are increasing fire activity across much of the Siberian boreal forest, yet the climate feedbacks from forest disturbances remain difficult to quantify due to limited information on forest biomass distribution, disturbance regimes and post-disturbance ecosystem recovery. Our primary objective here was to analyse post-fire accumulation of Cajander larch (Larix cajanderi Mayr.) aboveground biomass for a 100 000 km2 area of open forest in far northeastern Siberia. In addition to examining effects of fire size and topography on post-fire larch aboveground biomass, we assessed regional fire rotation and density, as well as performance of burned area maps generated from MODIS satellite imagery. Using Landsat imagery, we mapped 116 fire scar perimeters that dated c. 1966–2007. We then mapped larch aboveground biomass by linking field biomass measurements to tree shadows mapped synergistically from WorldView-1 and Landsat 5 satellite imagery. Larch aboveground biomass tended to be low during early succession (≤ 25 yr, 271 ± 26 g m−2, n = 66 [mean ± SE]) and decreased with increasing elevation and northwardly aspect. Larch aboveground biomass tended to be higher during mid-succession (33–38 yr, 746 ± 100 g m−2, n = 32), though was highly variable. The high variability was not associated with topography and potentially reflected differences in post-fire density of tree regrowth. Neither fire size nor latitude were significant predictors of post-fire larch aboveground biomass. Fire activity was considerably higher in the Kolyma Mountains (fire rotation = 110 yr, fire density = 1.0 ± 1.0 fires yr−1 × 104 km−2) than along the forest-tundra border (fire rotation = 792 yr, fire density = 0.3 ± 0.3 fires yr−1 × 104 km−2). The MODIS burned area maps underestimated the total area burned in this region from 2000–2007 by 40%. Tree shadows mapped jointly using high and medium resolution satellite imagery were strongly associated (r2 ≈ 0.9) with field measurements of forest structure, which permitted spatial extrapolation of aboveground biomass to a regional extent. Better understanding of forest biomass distribution, disturbances and post-disturbance recovery is needed to improve predictions of the net climatic feedbacks associated with landscape-scale forest disturbances in northern Eurasia.

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