Laura Bourgeau‐Chavez


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Evaluation of new methods for drought estimation in the Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System
Chelene C. Hanes, Mike Wotton, Laura Bourgeau‐Chavez, Douglas G. Woolford, Stéphane Bélair, David L. Martell, Mike Flannigan
International Journal of Wildland Fire

Background Canadian fire management agencies track drought conditions using the Drought Code (DC) in the Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System. The DC represents deep organic layer moisture.Aims To determine if electronic soil moisture probes and land surface model estimates of soil moisture content can be used to supplement and/or improve our understanding of drought in fire danger rating.Methods We carried out field studies in the provinces of Alberta and Ontario. We installed in situ soil moisture probes at two different depths in seven forest plots, from the surface through the organic layers, and in some cases into the mineral soil.Results Our results indicated that the simple DC model predicted the moisture content of the deeper organic layers (10–18 cm depths) well, even compared with the more sophisticated land surface model.Conclusions Electronic moisture probes can be used to supplement the DC. Land surface model estimates of moisture content consistently underpredicted organic layer moisture content.Implications Calibration and validation of the land surface model to organic soils in addition to mineral soils is necessary for future use in fire danger prediction.


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Disturbances in North American boreal forest and Arctic tundra: impacts, interactions, and responses
Adrianna C. Foster, Jonathan Wang, G. V. Frost, Scott J. Davidson, Elizabeth Hoy, Kevin W. Turner, Oliver Sonnentag, Howard E. Epstein, Logan T. Berner, A. H. Armstrong, Mary Kang, Brendan M. Rogers, Elizabeth M. Campbell, Kimberley Miner, Kathleen M. Orndahl, Laura Bourgeau‐Chavez, David A. Lutz, Nancy H. F. French, Dong Chen, Jinyang Du, Tatiana A. Shestakova, J. K. Shuman, Ken D. Tape, Anna-Maria Virkkala, Christopher Potter, Scott J. Goetz
Environmental Research Letters, Volume 17, Issue 11

Abstract Ecosystems in the North American Arctic-Boreal Zone (ABZ) experience a diverse set of disturbances associated with wildfire, permafrost dynamics, geomorphic processes, insect outbreaks and pathogens, extreme weather events, and human activity. Climate warming in the ABZ is occurring at over twice the rate of the global average, and as a result the extent, frequency, and severity of these disturbances are increasing rapidly. Disturbances in the ABZ span a wide gradient of spatiotemporal scales and have varying impacts on ecosystem properties and function. However, many ABZ disturbances are relatively understudied and have different sensitivities to climate and trajectories of recovery, resulting in considerable uncertainty in the impacts of climate warming and human land use on ABZ vegetation dynamics and in the interactions between disturbance types. Here we review the current knowledge of ABZ disturbances and their precursors, ecosystem impacts, temporal frequencies, spatial extents, and severity. We also summarize current knowledge of interactions and feedbacks among ABZ disturbances and characterize typical trajectories of vegetation loss and recovery in response to ecosystem disturbance using satellite time-series. We conclude with a summary of critical data and knowledge gaps and identify priorities for future study.


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Increasing fire and the decline of fire adapted black spruce in the boreal forest
Jennifer L. Baltzer, Nicola J. Day, Xanthe J. Walker, David F. Greene, Michelle C. Mack, Heather D. Alexander, Dominique Arseneault, Jennifer L. Barnes, Yves Bergeron, Yan Boucher, Laura Bourgeau‐Chavez, Clifford M. Brown, Suzanne Carrière, Brian K. Howard, Stéphane Gauthier, Marc‐André Parisien, Kirsten A. Reid, Brendan M. Rogers, Carl A. Roland, Luc Sirois, Sarah E. Stehn, Dan K. Thompson, M. R. Turetsky, Sander Veraverbeke, Ellen Whitman, Jian Yang, J. F. Johnstone
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Volume 118, Issue 45

Intensifying wildfire activity and climate change can drive rapid forest compositional shifts. In boreal North America, black spruce shapes forest flammability and depends on fire for regeneration. This relationship has helped black spruce maintain its dominance through much of the Holocene. However, with climate change and more frequent and severe fires, shifts away from black spruce dominance to broadleaf or pine species are emerging, with implications for ecosystem functions including carbon sequestration, water and energy fluxes, and wildlife habitat. Here, we predict that such reductions in black spruce after fire may already be widespread given current trends in climate and fire. To test this, we synthesize data from 1,538 field sites across boreal North America to evaluate compositional changes in tree species following 58 recent fires (1989 to 2014). While black spruce was resilient following most fires (62%), loss of resilience was common, and spruce regeneration failed completely in 18% of 1,140 black spruce sites. In contrast, postfire regeneration never failed in forests dominated by jack pine, which also possesses an aerial seed bank, or broad-leaved trees. More complete combustion of the soil organic layer, which often occurs in better-drained landscape positions and in dryer duff, promoted compositional changes throughout boreal North America. Forests in western North America, however, were more vulnerable to change due to greater long-term climate moisture deficits. While we find considerable remaining resilience in black spruce forests, predicted increases in climate moisture deficits and fire activity will erode this resilience, pushing the system toward a tipping point that has not been crossed in several thousand years.


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Patterns of Ecosystem Structure and Wildfire Carbon Combustion Across Six Ecoregions of the North American Boreal Forest
Xanthe J. Walker, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Laura Bourgeau‐Chavez, Nicola J. Day, Catherine M. Dieleman, Jill F. Johnstone, Evan S. Kane, Brendan M. Rogers, M. R. Turetsky, Sander Veraverbeke, Michelle C. Mack
Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, Volume 3

Increases in fire frequency, extent, and severity are expected to strongly impact the structure and function of boreal forest ecosystems. An important function of the boreal forest is its ability to sequester and store carbon (C). Increasing disturbance from wildfires, emitting large amounts of C to the atmosphere, may create a positive feedback to climate warming. Variation in ecosystem structure and function throughout the boreal forest are important for predicting the effects of climate warming and changing fire regimes on C dynamics. In this study, we compiled data on soil characteristics, stand structure, pre-fire C pools, C loss from fire, and the potential drivers of these C metrics from 527 sites distributed across six ecoregions of North America’s western boreal forests. We assessed structural and functional differences between these fire-prone ecoregions using data from 417 recently burned sites (2004-2015) and estimated ecoregion-specific relationships between soil characteristics and depth from 167 of these sites plus an additional 110 sites (27 burned, 83 unburned). We found that northern boreal ecoregions were generally older, stored and emitted proportionally more belowground than aboveground C and exhibited lower rates of C accumulation over time than southern ecoregions. We present ecoregion specific estimates of depth-wise soil characteristics that are important for predicting C combustion from fire. As climate continues to warm and disturbance from wildfires increases, the C dynamics of these fire-prone ecoregions are likely to change with significant implications for the global C cycle and its feedbacks to climate change.

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Fuel availability not fire weather controls boreal wildfire severity and carbon emissions
Xanthe J. Walker, Brendan M. Rogers, Sander Veraverbeke, Jill F. Johnstone, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Kirsten Barrett, Laura Bourgeau‐Chavez, Nicola J. Day, William J. de Groot, Catherine M. Dieleman, Scott J. Goetz, Elizabeth Hoy, Liza K. Jenkins, Evan S. Kane, Marc‐André Parisien, Stefano Potter, Edward A. G. Schuur, M. R. Turetsky, Ellen Whitman, Michelle C. Mack
Nature Climate Change, Volume 10, Issue 12

Carbon (C) emissions from wildfires are a key terrestrial–atmosphere interaction that influences global atmospheric composition and climate. Positive feedbacks between climate warming and boreal wildfires are predicted based on top-down controls of fire weather and climate, but C emissions from boreal fires may also depend on bottom-up controls of fuel availability related to edaphic controls and overstory tree composition. Here we synthesized data from 417 field sites spanning six ecoregions in the northwestern North American boreal forest and assessed the network of interactions among potential bottom-up and top-down drivers of C emissions. Our results indicate that C emissions are more strongly driven by fuel availability than by fire weather, highlighting the importance of fine-scale drainage conditions, overstory tree species composition and fuel accumulation rates for predicting total C emissions. By implication, climate change-induced modification of fuels needs to be considered for accurately predicting future C emissions from boreal wildfires.