The Canadian-Estonian forestry team decided to make a spatio-temporal comparison of carbon stocks between clear-cut stands and those that experienced an intense forest fire. The study, the first author of which is a post-doc from the CULS Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences, took place in the boreal forests of Ontario, Canada, and focused on areas where the above-mentioned disturbances took place 1 year, 8 and 27 years ago. The aim was to empirically quantify all carbon stocks in both forest ecosystems: living biomass, dead wood, forest leaf litter and soil.
The researchers calculated that the actual ability to stock carbon did not differ significantly between the two differently disturbed stands. This applies throughout the development of the young forest within 27 years of the event, but only if we compare the two types of stands studied in aggregate. On the contrary, there are big differences between individual forest reservoirs.
While after 27 years, living biomass in the originally harvested forest reaches almost four times the biomass in naturally evolving stands after a fire, in other categories more carbon is bound in the stands affected by the fire. Biomass is thus more evenly distributed, which can provide better ecosystem services.
In their summary, the authors state that carbon losses caused by clear-cutting in boreal forests could be compensated by preventing forest fires in areas of the same size. This equation makes sense in the most general form. However, the following questions remain open for further research: Do the conclusions of the study apply even if we take into account the carbon costs of logging, reforestation and forest management? If we tried to compensate for carbon losses with the above-mentioned fire-fighting measures, what would be the costs of monitoring and extinguishing? Is it really desirable to intervene in a double area, when many species are essentially dependent on fires?
Seedre, M., Taylor, A.R., Brassard, B.W., Chen, H.Y.H., Jőgiste, K. (2014): Recovery of Ecosystem Carbon Stocks in Young Boreal Forests: A Comparison of Harvesting and Wildfire Disturbance. Ecosystems 17 (5): 851–863.
Ing. Meelis Seedre, Ph.D.
He graduated from Lakehead University on the shores of Lake Superior to return to his native Baltic for his doctorate at the Estonian University of Life Sciences, and eventually landed on the left bank of the Vltava as a post-doc at the Department of Forest Ecology at the CULS Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences. He calls himself "Doctor Carbon".
Prepared by: Jiří Lehejček