09 Jul 2021

09 Jul 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Boreal Forest Wildfire and Climate Linked Drivers of Carbon and Nitrogen Loss

Johan Eckdahl1,2, Jeppe Kristensen3, and Daniel Metcalfe2 Johan Eckdahl et al.
  • 1Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  • 2Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
  • 3School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Abstract. The boreal landscape covers large portions of the earth's land area and stores a significant percentage of its terrestrial carbon (C). Increased emissions due to climate change amplified fire frequency, size and intensity threaten to remove elements such as C and nitrogen (N) from forest soil and vegetation at rates faster than they accumulate. This may result in large areas within the region becoming a net source of greenhouse gases creating a positive feedback loop with a changing climate. Estimates of per area fire emissions are regionally limited and knowledge of their relation to climate and ecosystem properties is sparse. This study sampled 50 separate Swedish wildfires from 2018 providing quantitative estimates of C and N loss due to fire along a climate gradient. Mean annual precipitation had strong positive effects on total fuel, which was the strongest driver for increasing C and N losses, while mean annual temperature (MAT) had greater influence on both pre- and postfire fuel bulk and chemical properties which had mixed effects on C and N losses. Significant fire induced loss of C occurred in the 50 plots comparable to estimates in similar Eurasian forests but approximately a quarter of those found in typical North American boreal wildfires. N loss was insignificant though large proportions were collected from lower soil layers to a surface layer of char in proportion to increased MAT. These results reveal the variability of C and N losses between global regions and across local climate conditions and a need to better incorporate these factors into models to improve estimates of global emissions of C and N due to fire in future climate scenarios. Additionally, this study demonstrated the linkage between climate and the chemical transformation of residual soil fuel and discusses its potential for altering C and N dynamics in postfire recovery.

Johan Eckdahl et al.

Status: open (until 20 Aug 2021)

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Johan Eckdahl et al.

Data sets

Dataset for Boreal Forest Wildfire and Climate Linked Drivers of Carbon and Nitrogen Loss Eckdahl, Johan; Kristensen, Jeppe; Metcalfe, Daniel

Johan Eckdahl et al.


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Short summary
This study found climate to be a driving force for increasing per area emissions of greenhouse gases and removal of important nutrients from high latitude forests due to wildfire. It used detailed, direct measurements over a large area to uncover patterns and mechanisms of restructuring of forest carbon and nitrogen pools that are extrapolatable to larger regions. It also take a step forward in filling gaps in global knowledge of northern forest response to climate change strengthened wildfires.