Assessing the Impacts of Fire and Insect Disturbance on the Terrestrial Carbon Budgets of Forested Areas in Canada, Alaska, and the Western United States

Assessing the Impacts of Fire and Insect Disturbance on the Terrestrial Carbon Budgets of Forested Areas in Canada, Alaska, and the Western United States

The goal for this NASA-sponsored research project is to develop an approach to estimate the impacts of natural disturbances on the carbon budget of the forests of Alaska and western Canada and the United States.  This is a collaborative research project, involving scientists from the Universities of Maryland and Alaska, the U.S. Geologic Survey, Michigan Tech, and the University of Guelph. The research included a combination of analyses of field-based data, development of remote-sensing products to characterize the impacts of forests fires, further refinement and development of carbon cycling models, and exercising of these models to assess the impacts of disturbance on forest carbon cycling.  To date, results from this research have produced new information products from remotely-sensed data that can be used to assess key characteristics of the fire regime, including the spatial extent of fires, fire severity in Alaskan black spruce forests, and patterns of burning as a function of vegetation type and fire seasonality. Analyses of field data have provided new insights on factors that control depth of burning of the surface organic layers of black spruce forests. Finally, modeling studies have produced significant improvements in estimates of carbon consumed by fires in Alaska, and have shown that recent changes in Alaska’s fire regime during the 2000s have resulted in significant losses of soil carbon. 

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NASA