Next Article in Journal
Exposure Complexity and Community Capacity to Manage Wildfire Risk: A Coupled Biophysical and Social Analysis of 60 Communities in the Western United States
Previous Article in Journal
The Role of Previous Fires in the Management and Expenditures of Subsequent Large Wildfires
Open AccessArticle

Post-Fire Carbon Dynamics in Subalpine Forests of the Rocky Mountains

1
Department of Forest, Rangeland and Fire Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA
2
Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA
3
Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA
4
Department of Geography, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 October 2019 / Revised: 27 November 2019 / Accepted: 4 December 2019 / Published: 6 December 2019
Forests store a large amount of terrestrial carbon, but this storage capacity is vulnerable to wildfire. Combustion, and subsequent tree mortality and soil erosion, can lead to increased carbon release and decreased carbon uptake. Previous work has shown that non-constant fire return intervals over the past 4000 years strongly shaped subalpine forest carbon trajectories. The extent to which fire-regime variability has impacted carbon trajectories in other subalpine forest types is unknown. Here, we explored the interactions between fire and carbon dynamics of 14 subalpine watersheds in Colorado, USA. We tested the impact of varying fire frequency over a ~2000 year period on ecosystem productivity and carbon storage using an improved biogeochemical model. High fire frequency simulations had overall lower carbon stocks across all sites compared to scenarios with lower fire frequencies, highlighting the importance of fire-frequency in determining ecosystem carbon storage. Additionally, variability in fire-free periods strongly influenced carbon trajectories across all the sites. Biogeochemical trajectories (e.g., increasing or decreasing total ecosystem carbon and carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) ratios) did not vary among forest types but there were trends that they may vary by elevation. Lower-elevations sites had lower overall soil C:N ratios, potentially because of higher fire frequencies reducing carbon inputs more than nitrogen losses over time. Additional measurements of ecosystem response to fire-regime variability will be essential for improving estimates of carbon dynamics from Earth system models. View Full-Text
Keywords: carbon cycle science; biogeochemical modeling; wildfire; paleoecology; paleo-fire reconstructions; subalpine forests carbon cycle science; biogeochemical modeling; wildfire; paleoecology; paleo-fire reconstructions; subalpine forests
Show Figures

Figure 1

MDPI and ACS Style

Bartowitz, K.J.; Higuera, P.E.; Shuman, B.N.; McLauchlan, K.K.; Hudiburg, T.W. Post-Fire Carbon Dynamics in Subalpine Forests of the Rocky Mountains. Fire 2019, 2, 58.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats
Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Access Map by Country/Region

1
Back to TopTop