Canadian Forest Service Publications

Large fires as agents of ecological diversity in the North American boreal forest. 2008. Burton, P.J.; Parisien, M.-A.; Hicke, J.A.; Hall, R.J.; Freeburn, J.T. International Journal of Wildland Fire 17(6): 754-767.

Year: 2008

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 29081

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free), PDF (request by e-mail)

Mark record


The present study undertook a hierarchical analysis of the variability within and among some individual fire events in the boreal ecozones of Canada and Alaska. When stratified by ecozone, differences in the spatial and temporal distribution of wildfires were observed in the Canadian Large Fire Data Base that reflect climatic, terrain and land-use differences across the country. Remote-sensing data collected before and after boreal forest fires permitted a rigorous analysis of the variability in burn severity within individual fire events, and the identification of certain fire-prone and more fire-resistant land-cover types. The occurrence of fire skips or islands was related to the distribution of those cover types, resulting in proportionally more unburned area within the perimeter of a burn for larger fires. Differences in burn severity led to differences in post-burn vegetation response of tree, shrub and moss layers that can persist for decades or even centuries. As a result, there can be considerable variability in the survival, density and distribution of residual biota and organic materials. This variability creates a range of post-fire vegetation patterns and contributes much to the habitat diversity of boreal landscapes.