Past, current and future fire frequency in the Canadian boreal forest: Implications for sustainable forest management.
Yves Bergeron, Micheal Flannigan, Sylvie Gauthier, Alain Leduc, Patrick Lefort.
Over the past decades, there has been an increasing interest in the development of forest management approaches that are based on an understanding of historical natural disturbance dynamics. The rationale for such an approach is that management to favor landscape compositions and stand structures similar to those of natural ecosystems should also maintain biological diversity and essential ecological functions. In fire-dominated landscapes, this approach is possible only if current and future fire frequencies are sufficiently low, comparing to pre-industrial fire frequency, that we can substitute fire by forest management. We address this question by comparing current and future fire frequency to historical reconstruction of fire frequency from studies realized in the Canadian boreal forest. Current and simulated future fire frequencies using 2 and 3 x CO2 scenarios are lower than the historical fire frequency for many sites, suggesting that forest management could potentially be used to recreate the forest age structure of fire-controlled pre-industrial landscapes. There are however, important limitations to the current even-age management.