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Article

Peatland Hydrological Dynamics as A Driver of Landscape Connectivity and Fire Activity in the Boreal Plain of Canada

1
Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Northern Forestry Centre, Edmonton, AB T6H 3S5, Canada
2
Canadian Partnership for Wildland Fire Science, Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2H1, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2019, 10(7), 534; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10070534
Received: 29 May 2019 / Revised: 20 June 2019 / Accepted: 22 June 2019 / Published: 26 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dynamic Modelling and Risk Assessment of Wildfire)
Drought is usually the precursor to large wildfires in northwestern boreal Canada, a region with both large wildfire potential and extensive peatland cover. Fire is a contagious process, and given weather conducive to burning, wildfires may be naturally limited by the connectivity of fuels and the connectivity of landscapes such as peatlands. Boreal peatlands fragment landscapes when wet and connect them when dry. The aim of this paper is to construct a framework by which the hydrological dynamics of boreal peatlands can be incorporated into standard wildfire likelihood models, in this case the Canadian Burn-P3 model. We computed hydrologically dynamic vegetation cover for peatlands (37% of the study area) on a real landscape in the Canadian boreal plain, corresponding to varying water table levels representing wet, moderate, and severely dry fuel moisture and hydrological conditions. Despite constant atmospheric drivers of fire spread (air temperature, humidity, and wind speed) between drought scenarios, fire activity increased 6-fold in moderate drought relative to a low drought baseline; severe (1 in 40 years) drought scenarios drove fires into previously fire-restrictive environments. Fire size increased 5-fold during moderate drought conditions and a further 20–25% during severe drought. Future climate change is projected to lead to an increase in the incidence of severe drought in boreal forests, leading to increases in burned area due to increasing fire frequency and size where peatlands are most abundant. Future climate change in regions where peatlands have historically acted as important barriers to fire spread may amplify ongoing increases in fire activity already observed in Western North American forests. View Full-Text
Keywords: wildfire; peatlands; boreal wildfire; peatlands; boreal
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MDPI and ACS Style

Thompson, D.K.; Simpson, B.N.; Whitman, E.; Barber, Q.E.; Parisien, M.-A. Peatland Hydrological Dynamics as A Driver of Landscape Connectivity and Fire Activity in the Boreal Plain of Canada. Forests 2019, 10, 534. https://doi.org/10.3390/f10070534

AMA Style

Thompson DK, Simpson BN, Whitman E, Barber QE, Parisien M-A. Peatland Hydrological Dynamics as A Driver of Landscape Connectivity and Fire Activity in the Boreal Plain of Canada. Forests. 2019; 10(7):534. https://doi.org/10.3390/f10070534

Chicago/Turabian Style

Thompson, Dan K., Brian N. Simpson, Ellen Whitman, Quinn E. Barber, and Marc-André Parisien. 2019. "Peatland Hydrological Dynamics as A Driver of Landscape Connectivity and Fire Activity in the Boreal Plain of Canada" Forests 10, no. 7: 534. https://doi.org/10.3390/f10070534

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