Canadian Forest Service Publications

Forest management is driving the eastern North American boreal forest outside its natural range of variability. 2009. Cyr, D.; Gauthier, S.; Bergeron, Y.; Carcaillet, C. Front. Ecol. 7: 519-524.

Year: 2009

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 31058

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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Fire is fundamental to the natural dynamics of the North American boreal forest. It is therefore often suggested that the impacts of anthropogenic disturbances (eg logging) on a managed landscape are attenuated if the patterns and processes created by these events resemble those of natural disturbances (eg fire). To provide forest management guidelines, we investigate the long-term variability in the mean fire interval (MFI) of a boreal landscape in eastern North America, as reconstructed from lacustrine (lake-associated) sedimentary charcoal. We translate the natural variability in MFI into a range of landscape age structures, using a simple modeling approach. Although using the array of possible forest age structures provides managers with some flexibility, an assessment of the current state of the landscape suggests that logging has already caused a shift in the age-class distribution toward a stronger representation of young stands with a concurrent decrease in old-growth stands. Logging is indeed quickly forcing the studied landscape outside of its long-term natural range of variability, implying that substantial changes in management practices are required, if we collectively decide to maintain these fundamental attributes of the boreal forest.