Effect of fire on soil-atmosphere exchange of methane and carbon dioxide in Canadian boreal forest sites
Article first published online: 21 SEP 2012
Copyright 1997 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012)
Volume 102, Issue D24, pages 29289–29300, 26 December 1997
How to Cite
1997), Effect of fire on soil-atmosphere exchange of methane and carbon dioxide in Canadian boreal forest sites, J. Geophys. Res., 102(D24), 29289–29300, doi:10.1029/97JD01331., , , , and (
- Issue published online: 21 SEP 2012
- Article first published online: 21 SEP 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 2 MAY 1997
- Manuscript Received: 8 AUG 1996
During the spring and summer of 1994 we monitored soil-atmosphere exchanges of methane and carbon dioxide at upland sites in the Canadian boreal forest near the northern study area (NSA) of the Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study (BOREAS). The effects of fire on methane and carbon dioxide exchange in black spruce stands developed on clay soils were evaluated by measuring fluxes with dark chambers in unburned stands and stands burned in 1994, 1992, and 1987. Similar measurements were made in jack pine stands developed on sandy soils, one unburned and the other burned in 1989. All of the sites were net sinks of atmospheric methane with median fluxes ranging from −0.3 to −1.4 mg CH4-C m−2 d−1. Median fluxes of carbon dioxide from the forest floor to the atmosphere ranged between 1 and 2 g C m−2 d−1. Both ecosystem characteristics (e.g., soil and vegetation type) and burning history (time since burn and fire intensity) appear to have some effect on atmospheric methane consumption and carbon dioxide emission by these forest soils. In general, the jack pine sites were stronger methane sinks and had lower carbon dioxide emissions than the black spruce sites. After a few years of recovery, the burned sites tended to be slightly stronger methane sinks than unburned controls. Our results suggest that soil CO2 effluxes from upland black spruce stands may not be immediately impacted by fire, possibly maintained at preburn levels by microbial decomposition of labile compounds released as a result of the fire. By 2 years postfire there appears to be a significant reduction in soil CO2 flux, due to the loss of tree root and moss respiration and possibly to the depletion of fire-related labile compounds. The observed recovery of soil respiration rates to preburn levels by 7 years postburn is probably due to the respiration of regrowing vegetation and the combined effects of elevated soil temperatures (about 4° to 5°C warmer than unburned sites) and improved litter quality on soil microbial activities. We estimate that soil CO2 emissions from recently burned boreal forest soils in the northern hemisphere could be of the order of 0.35 Pg C yr−1, which is in good agreement with a previous estimate that was derived in a different manner.