FIre REcovery and Forest Loss in Eastern Siberia (FIREFLIES)

Krasnoyarsk field test site

Project Team

University of Leicester:
Dr Kirsten Barrett, PI
Dr Joerg Kaduk
Prof Heiko Balzter
Prof Kevin Tansey

University of Durham:
Dr Robert Baxter

Project Description

The purpose of this research is to detect boreal recruitment failure (RF) due to fire, to determine the causes of RF, and to quantify feedbacks to climate from RF that are not currently accounted for in current climate and vegetation models. Forest loss due to the failure of new trees to become established post-fire (RF) occurs in boreal forests in Eurasia and North America often after multiple fires within a short time interval (< 10 years). Such a short fire return interval has been observed in 20% of the landscape in our study region in southern Siberia. The existence of ecological thresholds, or “tipping points” that cause abrupt ecological shifts, is well-known in ecosystems theory, but where and when ecosystems are approaching such dramatic changes is difficult to predict. RF areas in Siberia are dominated by grass and are similar to steppe vegetation found at lower latitudes and altitudes. Such a transition from forest to steppe is consistent with predicted changes in vegetation composition in response to regional climate change, and is consistent with global observations of forest loss in response to climate.

Research Objectives

This research addresses three research questions regarding the causes and consequences of RF:

1. When and where does boreal RF occur?
2. What are the factors that cause boreal RF?
3. What climate feedbacks are likely to result from boreal RF?

The spatial and temporal patterns of RF will be addressed primarily through the use of time series data of remotely sensed imagery. Causes of RF will be investigated using a combination of ecological field observations and remotely sensed data. The potential climate feedbacks from RF will be investigated using the JULES model to incorporate in situ and remotely sensed observations.

Project Partners

University of Alaska Fairbanks
Michigan Tech Research Institute
University of Maryland
Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena
Northern Eurasia Earth Science Partnership Initiative/Northern Eurasia Future Initiative (NEESPI/NEFI)
Space Research Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences (IKI)
European Space Agency Climate Change Initiative (ESA CCI)
World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Russia

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