How do forest fires affect soil greenhouse gas emissions in upland boreal forests? A review

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Ribeiro-Kumara , C , Köster , E , Aaltonen , H & Köster , K 2020 , ' How do forest fires affect soil greenhouse gas emissions in upland boreal forests? A review ' , Environmental Research , vol. 184 , 109328 .

Title: How do forest fires affect soil greenhouse gas emissions in upland boreal forests? A review
Author: Ribeiro-Kumara, Christine; Köster, Egle; Aaltonen, Heidi; Köster, Kajar
Contributor organization: Department of Forest Sciences
Forest Soil Science and Biogeochemistry
Forest Ecology and Management
Ecosystem processes (INAR Forest Sciences)
Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR)
Date: 2020-05
Language: eng
Number of pages: 10
Belongs to series: Environmental Research
ISSN: 0013-9351
Abstract: Wildfires strongly regulate carbon (C) cycling and storage in boreal forests and account for almost 10% of global fire C emissions. However, the anticipated effects of climate change on fire regimes may destabilize current C-climate feedbacks and switch the systems to new stability domains. Since most of these forests are located in upland soils where permafrost is widespread, the expected climate warming and drying combined with more active fires may alter the greenhouse gas (GHG) budgets of boreal forests and trigger unprecedented changes in the global C balance. Therefore, a better understanding of the effects of fires on the various spatial and temporal patterns of GHG fluxes of different physical environments (permafrost and nonpermafrost soils) is fundamental to an understanding of the role played by fire in future climate feedbacks. While large amounts of C are released during fires, postfire GHG fluxes play an important role in boreal C budgets over the short and long term. The timescale over which the vegetation cover regenerates seems to drive the recovery of C emissions after both low- and high-severity fires, regardless of fire-induced changes in soil decomposition. In soils underlain by permafrost, fires increase the active layer depth for several years, which may alter the soil dynamics regulating soil GHG exchange. In a scenario of global warming, prolonged exposition of previously immobilized C could result in higher carbon dioxide emission during the early fire succession. However, without knowledge of the contribution of each respiration component combined with assessment of the warming and drying effects on both labile and recalcitrant soil organic matter throughout the soil profile, we cannot advance on the most relevant feedbacks involving fire and permafrost. Fires seem to have either negligible effects on methane (CH4) fluxes or a slight increase in CH4 uptake. However, permafrost thawing driven by climate or fire could turn upland boreal soils into temporary CH4 sources, depending on how fast the transition from moist to drier soils occurs. Most studies indicate a slight decrease or no significant change in postfire nitrous oxide (N2O) fluxes. However, simulations have shown that the temperature sensitivity of denitrification exceeds that of soil respiration; thus, the effects of warming on soil N2O emissions may be greater than on C emissions.
Subject: 1172 Environmental sciences
4112 Forestry
Fire disturbance
Fire severity
Soil respiration
Nitrous oxide
Peer reviewed: Yes
Rights: cc_by
Usage restriction: openAccess
Self-archived version: publishedVersion

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