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Regional patterns of postfire canopy recovery in the northern boreal forest of Quebec: interactions between surficial deposit, climate, and fire cycle

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In many northern forest ecosystems, the postfire transition from a closed-crown forest to open woodland is often observed but poorly understood. This paper looks at the effect of interactions between surficial deposit, climate, and fire cycle on postfire forest recovery within a large territory (190 000 km2) of the boreal forest of eastern Canada. Postfire recovery was estimated using the time elapsed to move from the burnt stage to the regenerated stage and the young forest stage. The main objective was to determine if forests situated in dry regions (characterized by a high proportion of dry coarse surficial deposits, low precipitation, and short fire cycle) tend to reestablish more slowly after fire, obtaining a more open stand compared with wetter regions characterized by a longer fire cycle. To identify the best explanatory model for postfire recovery, multinomial logistic regressions with the Akaike information criterion were conducted using a combination of physicoclimatic factors. Our best model suggests that the most significant predictors of postfire recovery are time since fire (χ2 = 1370.06), surficial deposit type (χ2 = 651.95), the Canadian Drought Code (χ2 = 247.75), and the growing season precipitation (χ2 = 102.80). Fast recovery and dense forest regeneration are associated with subhydric till deposits only in the regions characterized by a long fire cycle (>500 years). Conversely, slow regeneration conducive to a sparse young forest was usually associated with regions characterized by a short fire cycle (<200 years) underlain by dry coarse deposits such as juxtaglacial but also mesic deposits in some cases. Our results also show that slow recovery and reduced forest regeneration are most likely to occur following fires that occurred in dry years, regardless of the deposit type and region.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/x2012-101

Affiliations: 1: Centre d’étude de la forêt, Université du Québec à Montréal, C.P. 8888, Succ. Centre-ville, Montréal, QC H3C 3P8, Canada. 2: Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Laurentian Forestry Centre, 1055 du PEPS, P.O. Box 10380, Stn. Sainte-Foy, Québec, QC G1V 4C7, Canada. 3: Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, Direction des inventaires forestiers, 880 chemin Sainte-Foy, 5e étage, Québec, QC G1S 4X4, Canada. 4: NSERC/UQAT/UQAM Industrial Chair in Sustainable Forest Management, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, 445 boul. de l’Université, Rouyn-Noranda, QC J9X 5E4, Canada.

Publication date: July 19, 2012

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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