Fire Regime and Old-Growth Boreal Forests in Central Quebec, Canada: An Ecosystem Management Perspective.
Annie Claude Bélisle, Sylvie Gauthier, Dominic Cyr, Yves Bergeron, Hubert Morin.
Boreal forest management in Eastern Canada has caused depletion and fragmentation of oldgrowth
ecosystems, with growing impacts on the associated biodiversity. To mitigate impacts
of management while maintaining timber supplies, ecosystem management aims to narrow
the gap between natural and managed landscapes. Our study describes the fire history and
associated natural old-growth forest proportions and distribution of a 5000 km2 area located in
the black spruce-feather moss forest of central Quebec. We reconstructed a stand-origin map
using archival data, aerial photos and dendrochronology. According to survival analysis (Cox
hazard model), the mean fire cycle length was 247 years for the 1734–2009 period. Age-class
distribution modelling showed that old-growth forests were present on an average of 55% of
the landscape over the last 275 years. The mean fire size was 10 113 ha, while most of the
burned area was attributable to fires larger than 10 000 ha, leading to old-growth agglomerations
of hundreds of square kilometres. In regards to our findings, we propose ecosystem
management targets and strategies to preserve forest diversity and resilience.