Canadian Forest Service Publications

Integrating forest fuels and land cover data for improved estimation of fuel consumption and carbon emissions from boreal fires. 2015. Anderson, K.; Simpson, B.; Hall, R.J.; Englefield, P.; Gartrell, M.; Metsaranta, J.M. International Journal of Wildland Fire 24(5):665-679.

Year: 2015

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 36139

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1071/WF14142

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Estimating carbon emissions from wildland fires is complicated by the large variation in both forest fuels and burning conditions across Canada’s boreal forest. The potential for using spatial fuel maps to improve wildland fire carbon emission estimates in Canada’s National Forest Carbon Monitoring, Accounting and Reporting System (NFCMARS) was evaluated for select wildfires (representing a transect across western Canada) occurring in 2003 and 2004 at four study areas in western Canada. Area-normalised emission rates and total emissions differed by fuels data source, mainly as a function of the treatment of open fuels in the higher resolution spatial fuel models. The use of spatial data to refine the selection of stand types that probably burned and the use of fire weather conditions specific to the fire increased the precision of total carbon emission estimates, relative to computational procedures used by Canada’s NFCMARS. Estimates of total emissions from the NFCMARS were consistent with the regional and national data sources following the spatial approach, suggesting the two approaches had equivalent accuracies. Though it cannot be said with certainty that the inclusion of this detailed information improved accuracy, the spatial approach offers the promise or potential for more accurate results, pending more consistent fuel maps, especially at finer scales.

Plain Language Summary

In this paper we describe a new method for estimating carbon emissions from wildland fires. We study this as part of Canada’s international commitments to monitor carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. Instead of using generalized lists of forest stands, we used detailed forest maps and maps of where the fires occurred to calculate carbon emissions. We tested this method on data from four historical fires. Our approach gave us more precise estimates of carbon emissions. This is important because reducing uncertainty in these estimates is necessary for international reporting of carbon emissions.