Climate change impacts on burn severity in Alaska Part II: Implications for fire management
Crystal A. Kolden, DRI, Reno, NV; and J. T. Abatzoglou
Conventional wisdom and findings from the conterminous U.S. dictate that warmer, drier conditions enable larger, more severe wildfires. In interior Alaska, however, these climatic conditions appear to be linked to a shift in the fire regime wherein a greater fraction of fires burn at lower severity. Understanding the ecological implications for this apparent shift is critical to fire managers, who have limited resources to manage a vast region largely unaltered in the historic period, but are rapidly seeing the effects of climate change. This study identifies trends in area burned and burned severity as they relate to fuels, and addresses the climate change impacts on fire regimes and fire management over the next century. Global climate model outputs project significant increases in summer temperature over the next century. This has significant implications for fire and fuels management in Alaska for two primary reasons. First, wetlands which historically did not burn are widely used for fire breaks in suppression efforts in Alaska, and are more likely to burn under warmer conditions. Second, the increased burning of wetlands and marginally flammable areas (i.e. deciduous forest stands) is likely to produce increased smoke problems for Fairbanks and the many rural villages that lie along Alaska's river systems.
Session 4A, Climate Change Impacts
Tuesday, 13 October 2009, 3:30 PM-5:00 PM, Lake McDonald/ Swift Current/ Hanging Gardens
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