FIRE SUPPRESSION AND ECOSYSTEM CARBON STORAGE

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Abstract

A 35-year controlled burning experiment in Minnesota oak savanna showed that fire frequency had a great impact on ecosystem carbon (C) stores. Specifically, compared to the historical fire regime, fire suppression led to an average of 1.8 Mg·ha−1·yr−1 of C storage, with most carbon stored in woody biomass. Forest floor carbon stores were also significantly impacted by fire frequency, but there were no detectable effects of fire suppression on carbon in soil and fine roots combined, or in woody debris. Total ecosystem C stores averaged ∼110 Mg/ha in stands experiencing presettlement fire frequencies, but ∼220 Mg/ha in stands experiencing fire suppression. If comparable rates of C storage were to occur in other ecosystems in response to the current extent of fire suppression in the United States, fire suppression in the USA might account for 8–20% of missing global carbon.

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