Effects of multiple short interval fires on community and functional trait-based regeneration in boreal Alaska

Authors: Katherine Hayes*, University of Colorado, Brian Buma, University of Colorado Denver
Topics: Biogeography, Global Change, Polar Regions
Keywords: boreal, fire, plant community
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 32
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Fire is a major driver of forest structure, composition and age in boreal landscapes across spatial and temporal scales. Repeat short-interval fires in Interior Alaska (occurring within 50 years or less) are a departure from historic norms of fire intervals and drive ecological transitions from conifer-dominated to deciduous-dominated forests. However, uncertainty remains regarding how short-interval reburning alters boreal forest communities beyond the effects on tree regeneration. Specifically, the effects of repeat short-interval fires on understory plant communities and functional trait regeneration remain unknown. Here, we investigate how multiple short-interval fires alter community structure and functional trait assemblages in two sites of regenerating stands in boreal Interior Alaska. Each site contains a mosaic of burn perimeters from fires burning once, twice or three times in short-intervals (>30 years). We report initial results of understory community composition, overall species richness and differences in regeneration traits, and examine the role of local site conditions in mediating the impact of repeat reburning on regenerating plant communities. This work informs our ability to predict and manage impacts of repeat burning in boreal Interior Alaska forests and expands on our understanding of disturbance-driven ecological change in high-latitude boreal environments.

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