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Fire Management for Biodiversity in the European Boreal Forest

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Past fire regimes may indicate under what conditions species have been able to exist in the past, but they do not provide clear and easy answers as to how the boreal landscape should be managed today. First, fire regimes have changed considerably over time through the effects of a changing climate, and sometimes even more dramatically through the influence of humans. Therefore it is unlikely that a close quantitative link exists between fire regime and biodiversity. Alternatively, if there is such a link, then biodiversity should have been highly variable in the past, even at the landscape scale. Second, it is impossible to re-enact all fire variables within forestry, particularly those operating at the landscape scale. An alternative to the superficial ''emulation'' of the past, which is so often claimed in today's forest management, would be to identify critical processes and habitats at the stand and landscape scale and find ways to maintain these at sufficient levels. This requires detailed knowledge of the mechanisms involved, and will lead to very different solutions for different groups of species. For example: whereas the highly mobile fire-dependent insects can make use of randomly appearing and relatively small burns in the landscape, fire-dependent plants are typically seed bankers and require that fire returns to the same site within a reasonable time. For these and other more or less ''sessile'' organisms it is vital to designate selected stands and landscapes with long-term plans for the use of fire. Without such a long-term commitment to selected localities, much of the unique features associated with fire in the boreal landscape will be lost, despite a costly investment in prescribed burning.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Forest Vegetation Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SE-901 83 Umeå, Sweden

Publication date: 2001-03-15

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