Wildfire affects boreal forest resilience through post-fire recruitment in Northeastern China

Bo Liu, Yu Liang, Hong S. He, Zhihua Liu, Tianxiao Ma, Mia M. Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Climate change has increased the severity, frequency, and impact of fire disturbance on boreal forests worldwide. Unusual fire events can trigger a shift from needle-leaf dominated forests to broad-leaf dominated forests, altering the original succession trajectory. Thus, it is necessary to identify how altered fire regimes affect boreal forest resilience or capacity to recover after fire disturbance. In this study, we used the post-fire tree recruitment density, the aboveground biomass, the understory shrub cover, and the herb cover as indicators of forest resilience. We explored the links between patterns of resilience and burn severity across topographic positions in two post-fire forests with different time since fire. We quantified how burn severity, time since fire, and topographic position affect resilience indicators related to post-fire overstory and understory recruitment in the Great Xing'an Mountains of Northeastern China. We found that burn severity and topographic position exhibited strong influences on post-fire overstory tree recruitment and aboveground biomass. Severe fire promoted deciduous needle-leaf tree (larch) recruitment in lowland sites by removing a thick organic layer. In contrast, severe fire promoted broad-leaf tree (birch and aspen) recruitment in south-facing upland sites with relatively warmer and drier microclimates. Therefore, severe fire disturbance may trigger a post-fire species shift from larch dominated forest to broad-leaf forest, especially in south-facing upland sties. We also found that the understory may be more resilient to high severity fire than the overstory, because severity had short-term effects on post-fire understory recruitment. Our study suggested that burn severity was a crucial factor that affects boreal forest resilience through substantially altering resilience indicators related to post-fire overstory tree recruitment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109705
JournalEcological Indicators
Volume145
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Keywords

  • Boreal tree
  • Fire regime
  • Regeneration
  • Severe fire
  • Time since fire
  • Understory

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