Canadian Forest Service Publications

The reduction of organic-layer depth by wildfire in the North American boreal forest and its effect on tree recruitment by seed. 2007. Greene, D.F.; Macdonald, S.E.; Haeussler, S.; Domenicano, S.; Noël, J.; Jayen, K.; Charron, I.; Gauthier, S.; Hunt, S.; Gielau, E.T.; Bergeron, Y.; Swift, L. Can. J. For. Res. 37: 1012-1023.

Year: 2007

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 27446

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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We compared prefire and postfire organic-layer depths in boreal forest types (14 fires) across Canada, and examined tree recruitment as a function of depth. There was extensive within-stand variation in depth, much of it due to clustering of thinner organic layers around boles. There were no significant differences in postfire organic-layer depth among sites with different prefire forest species composition, but sites in the eastern boreal region had thicker postfire organic layers than those in the western boreal region. Mean organic-layer depth was much greater in intact stands than after fires; overall, fire reduced organic-layer depth by 60%, largely because of increases in the area of thin (<3 cm) organic layers (1% in intact stands vs. 40% in postfire stands). There was more variation in organic-layer depth within postfire than within prefire stands; notably, some areas in postfire stands were deeply combusted, while adjacent parts were only lightly combusted. We speculate that the diminished role of energy loss to latent heat around tree boles increased organic-layer consumption around tree boles. Seedlings were clustered around burned tree bases, where organic layers were thinner, and the dependence of a species on thin organic layers was an inverse function of seed size.