Canadian Forest Service Publications

Distribution and dynamics of tree species across a fire frequency gradient in the James Bay region of Quebec. 2003. Parisien, M.-A.; Sirois, L. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 33(2): 243-256.

Year: 2003

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 21335

Language: English

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Abstract

This study examines how forest structure and composition change with spatial variations in the fire cycle across a shore-hinterland gradient. Twenty-one well-drained sites were sampled at different distances from James Bay to describe the forest stands. To quantify the role of fire in tree species distribution, a spatial analysis of fire polygons from 1930 to 1998 was undertaken in a 43 228 km2 study area adjacent to James Bay. Results from this analysis reveal an important decrease in the fire cycle, from 3142 to 115 years, from the shore to the hinterland. In forests bordering James Bay, white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) is found in pure stands. It is gradually replaced by black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP) at 0.5 km from the shore. Jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.) abruptly appears at 22 km from the shore. There is a positive correlation between the frequency of white spruce and the fire cycle (R = 0.893), whereas this correlation is negative for black spruce (R = –0.753) and jack pine (R = –0.807) (Spearman correlations). Jack pine is confined to regions having a short fire cycle, while black spruce can seemingly maintain itself with or without fire. The exclusion of white spruce hinterland seems to be mainly due to a short fire cycle; however, other factors, such as soil development and species abundance, presumably have a marked influence on the distribution of this species.