Influence of Fuel Load Dynamics on Carbon Emission
by Wildfires in the Clay Belt Boreal Landscape.
Aurélie Terrier, Mathieu Paquette, Sylvie Gauthier, Martin-Philippe Girardin, Sylvain Pelletier-Bergeron, Yves Bergeron.
Old-growth forests play a decisive role in preserving biodiversity and ecological functions. In an environment frequently disturbed by fire, the importance of old-growth forests as both a carbon stock as well as a source of emissions when burnt is not fully understood. Here, we report on carbon accumulation with time since the last fire (TSF) in the dominant forest types of the Clay Belt region in eastern North America. To do so, we performed a fuel inventory (tree biomass, herbs and shrubs, dead woody debris, and duff loads) along four chronosequences. Carbon emissions by fire through successional stages were simulated using the Canadian Fire Effects Model. Our results show that fuel accumulates with TSF, especially in coniferous forests. Potential carbon emissions were on average 11.9 tˇha?1 and 29.5 tˇha?1 for old-growth and young forests, respectively. In conclusion, maintaining old-growth forests in the Clay Belt landscape not only ensures a sustainable management of the boreal forest, but it also optimizes the carbon storage.