Report

Long-Term Effects of Wildfire on Ecosystem Properties Across an Island Area Gradient

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Science  09 May 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5621, pp. 972-975
DOI: 10.1126/science.1082709

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Abstract

Boreal forest soils play an important role in the global carbon cycle by functioning as a large terrestrial carbon sink or source, and the alteration of fire regime through global change phenomena may influence this role. We studied a system of forested lake islands in the boreal zone of Sweden for which fire frequency increases with increasing island size. Large islands supported higher plant productivity and litter decomposition rates than did smaller ones, and, with increasing time since fire, litter decomposition rates were suppressed sooner than was ecosystem productivity. This contributes to greater carbon storage with increasing time since fire; for every century without a major fire, an additional 0.5 kilograms per square meter of carbon becomes stored in the humus.

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