Long-term dynamics of fire refuges in boreal mixedwood forests.
Samira Ouarmim, Hugo Asselin, Christelle Hely-Alleaume, Yves Bergeron, Adam Ali.
Burned areas in boreal mixedwood forests usually include tree patches that partially or entirely escaped fire. Some of these post-fire residual stands – called fire refuges – can escape several consecutive fires due to particular microsite conditions. Despite their potential importance as biodiversity hotspots, the long-term forest dynamics of fire refuges is unknown. High-resolution analysis of plant macroremains retrieved from forest organic matter profiles sampled in five fire refuges allowed us to describe up to 8000 years of forest dynamics. Our results display the importance of local conditions in forest dynamics. Wildfire was probably prevented by high moisture, as indicated by the presence of aquatic taxa and moisture-tolerant tree species. Lack of stand-replacing fire, coupled with organic matter accumulation, favored the millennial persistence of late-successional tree species. Shifts from spruce/larch dominance to fir/cedar dominance were noted at different occasions during the Holocene, probably resulting from endogenous processes.