Fire Extent and Severity

A fire rages across the tundra near the Baird Mountains.
Boggy tundra is a cold, wet environment which allows layers of peat to build up in the soil. Even though it's damp, it can dry out enough to be good fuel for lightning-caused wildfires. This fire was in 2013 in Kobuk Valley National Park.

Current and future climatic changes will impact the occurrence, extent, and severity of fires in the Arctic Network and will have cascading effects on other ecosystem processes. Fire can exert strong landscape-scale effects on vegetation composition and distribution, permafrost dynamics, nutrient cycling, carbon gain or loss, and primary productivity. Wildland fire is one of the largest natural disturbance processes in the boreal and tundra ecosystems of Arctic parklands. In the past 50 years, over 1 million acres have burned in these parks. Fire influences not only vegetation succession and distribution, but also wildlife habitat, soils (e.g., permafrost and nutrient cycling), hydrology, water quality, and air quality. In addition, the natural fire regime (fire frequency, fire extent, and severity) and secondary fire effects are likely to respond to local and global climate changes.

We monitor fire parameters (such as the number of fires, fire extent, and burn severity) across all Arctic parklands to detect:

  • Long-term changes in frequency, extent, and severity.
  • Long-term effects of fire on vegetation.

Contact: Jennifer Barnes

scientists document burn severity in a burnt black spruce forest
Scientists document vegetation and burn severity in a recently burnt black spruce forest.

Seth Adams

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    Last updated: January 29, 2021