Some Interesting Facts about Boreal ForestsCourtesy ofThe Wild by rrboy


									                                                                          Darren Wolfgang
                                                                                 Fort. 320

       The Boreal Forest is the Northern most forest Biome in the world. It stretches on

the North American continent from Southern Canada North to Alaska, and extends south

to the Boreal Hemlock/Pine belt in the Appalachian Mountains in the North Eastern U.S.

The Boreal Forest continues around the world dominating Northern European countries

like Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, and N. Russia, where it is increasingly in danger of

falling into the hands of timber companies, which in some northern countries is the single

greatest economic stimulus. The Boreal Belt is bordered typically by the Tundra Biome

to the North, and the Temperate Deciduous Biome to the South.

       Some of the most common trees found in the Boreal are: Paper Birch, Quaking

Aspen, Red Maple, Tamarack, White Spruce, Engelmann Spruce, Black Spruce, Northern

White Cedar, Jack Pine, Balsam Fir, Button Bush, Smooth Sumac, and Hemlock. The

Boreal Forest is home to many species of wildlife such as: Beavers, Black bears, caribou,

gray wolf, moose, snowshoe hare, white-tailed deer, owls, as well as numerous types of

ducks and songbirds.

       The Boreal Forest is highly adapted to small fires burning sections of this vast

forest land. The fires here usually do not burn extremely large areas of the forest due to

the many glacier lakes, streams, rivers, and kettle bogs that exist in the Canadian region.

These geographic features give this ecosystem some natural fire breaks. As you move

however into different regions of the Boreal Biome, larger fires can potentially occur

during the dry summer months. An example, 6 million acres burned in a fire in Alaska

last summer.
                                                                            Darren Wolfgang
                                                                                   Fort. 320
       The Boreal Forest is the 2nd largest holder of Carbon, 1st is the ocean. When fires

burn in these areas, the stored Carbon is in turn released into the atmosphere. These large

fires releasing stored carbon cause the atmospheric Carbon levels to rise significantly.

On the other side however, these vast tracts of conifer forests also absorb much of the

excess carbon produced from human activities such as industrialization, and automobile

transportation, thus making more of an impact in cleaning the air then perhaps the

deciduous trees.

       According to a 2003 study conducted by NASA(National Aeronautics and Space

Administration) along with ESE(Earth Science Enterprise), a division that specializes in

understanding the natural cycles and processes of our planet, over 25% of total carbon in

Earth’s Biosphere is stored in northern Boreal forests. After a fire in this forest type the

seedlings of Aspen, Jack Pine, and Black Spruce all simultaneously regenerate after a


In the young stands Aspen and Jack Pine then to dominate because they are shade

intolerant and when much sunlight is abundant they grown initially, much faster than the

Spruce. If you return to the stands 50 years or more after a fire you can typically expect

to see the Spruce as the dominant tree species, because after they begin to grow they

eventually shade out the Aspen, and Pine. The research concluded that trees that

regenerated immediately after the fire reached their peak carbon absorption at ages 20-50

years and at 70 years the trees in the Boreal forest reach the carbon balance of the

                                                                          Darren Wolfgang
                                                                                 Fort. 320

Due to second growth populations of Balsam Fir, Boreal forests can be susceptible to the

spruce budworm. If the budworm ravages a spruce forest, the trees die, and the potential

for more serious wildfires increases significantly due to the new abundance of deadwood

fuel. Foresters have attempted to stay ahead of the budworm, by harvesting excess

Balsam Fir which is very shade tolerant. These efforts have been semi-successful in

locals and regional areas, however due to the sheer vastness of the Boreal Forests, it is

difficult to root out the problem of the budworms entirely.

        In recent years in has become apparent that Boreal forests are burning more in the

last decade than they have since the 1960’s. In Alaska and Canada on average fire

ravaged 7 million acres a year, up 4 million from the previous 3 decades (1960-1989).

In an article written by Kay Davidson of the San Francisco Chronicle entitled “Cold

Northern Forests Face Burning Threat/Global Warming Blamed for Huge Fires, the

article outlines the increase in fire sizes in the Boreal Zone.

          Some experts like researcher David V. Sandberg (Fire and Environmental

Resources, U.S.D.A) speculate that Global warming may be to blame. The higher

temperatures, and more irregular rainfall patterns, are causing the Boreal Forests of the

North to dry faster than they normally do, making it an easy target for lightning strikes to

cause a fire.

          This ecosystem is normally wet due to the swampy bogs, and cool temperatures,

but when the temperature rises, and the brush and trees begin to dry out fire tends to

occur. Some of the largest wildfires have been occurring in such remote terrain that it is
                                                                          Darren Wolfgang
                                                                                 Fort. 320
very difficult to get fire fighters and equipment into the remote regions to extinguish the


         Some of the worst fires devour boreal forests of the former Soviet Union.

During the Cold War, Soviet officials kept unreliable records of the severity and extent of

forest fires, (said Eric S. Kasischke, a professor in the department of geography at the

University of Maryland-College Park). Back then, Western researchers underestimated

the extent of fires in remote Arctic and sub-Arctic lands, partly because of the lack of

trustworthy Soviet data, said (Brian J. Stocks, a forest fire researcher with the Canadian

Forest Service). “They weren't even sure how bad fires were in isolated parts of northern

North America because of inadequate satellite coverage”, he added.

         As technology progresses, and the use of satellite imaging advances we can

hope to gain new information about where past fires occur, and make predictions about

where they will occur in the future. Using The Fire BEHAVE prediction system to

simulate early summer time weather conditions and their effect on fire probability in the

Boreal Forest Region, I found that if fuel moisture is low(3%) in the 1 hour, 10 hour, and

100 hour fuel types, that large fires can occur. These fires would typically be started by

lightning strikes, and would start in the needle/duff, or sometimes in the crown of a dead

tree. Once the crown fire starts, the maximum spotting distance driven by a 20mph wind

can reach .8 miles. If the Engelmann Spruce dominated forest, with an average DBH of

40inches catches on fire and the fuel moisture is low the fires will smolder and burn

intensely as the fire gathers momentum. Since the terrain is so variable in the Boreal

region an input slop of 4% was used as the terrain elevation. The wind direction was at

340 degrees, and pushes the fires up over the elevation. The torching tree height would be
                                                                           Darren Wolfgang
                                                                                  Fort. 320
approximately 120 feet, in the older 70 + year old stands. Tree heights could be shorter

the farther north you move towards the Tundra Biome. The Boreal Forests are some of

the largest contiguous tracts of forest on the Earth. It is important that we conserve these

invaluable resources, and make attempts to limit the occurrence of fire in these areas.

Some fires are good in the Boreal region, as earlier mentioned, trees aged 20-50 years

absorb the most carbon, so fires are great for stimulating new regeneration, and adding a

little biodiversity to the forest by allowing more sunlight to reach the ground, that was

typically shaded over by large older growth spruce trees. Fire is a natural process, but we

as humans have to act responsibly to ensure that the resources we have come to know and

love remain here for future generations to enjoy.
                                                                  Darren Wolfgang
                                                                         Fort. 320


   2. The Wild-lands League Organization, A Chapter of the Canadian Parks and

      Wilderness Society.

   3. Fire Frequency Determines Forest Carbon Storage 3/21/03

   4. Research Study Areas(Black Sturgeon Boreal Mixedwood Forest)

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