Multi-century reconstruction suggests complex interactions of climate and human controls of forest fire activity in a Karelian boreal landscape, North-West Russia.
Nina Ryzhkova, G. Pinto, Alexander Kryshen, Yves Bergeron, Clémentine Ols, Igor Drobyshev.
Spatially explicit reconstructions of fire activity in European boreal forest are rare, which limits our understanding of factors driving vegetation dynamics in this part of the boreal domain. We have developed a spatially explicit dendrochronological reconstruction of a fire regime in a 25 × 50 km2 area within boreal biome located within the Kalevalsky National Park (Kalevalsky NP), over the 1400–2010 CE period. We dated 184 fire years using 212 fire-scarred living and dead Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) trees collected on 38 sites.
The studied period revealed a pronounced century-long variability in forest fire cycles (FC). The early period (1400–1620 CE) had low fire activity (FC = 178 years), which increased during the 1630–1920 period (FC = 46 years) and then decreased over the 1930–2000 period (FC = 283 years). Dendrochronological results did not provide a conclusive answer on the origins of FC dynamics, although several lines of evidence suggest that climate drove the increase in fire activity in the early 1600s, while human-related factors were largely responsible for its decline in the early 1900s. The current FC in the Kalevalsky NP is close to the estimates reported for the pre-industrial colonisation period in Scandinavia, which suggests that the forests of the area currently maintain their close-to-natural fire regime. Fire has been the pivotal factor of forest dynamics in this biome and forest management should acknowledge that fact in developing conservation strategies in Karelia and other areas of European boreal forest. Introduction of prescribed burns of varying severity could be an important element of such strategies.