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Turetsky, Merritt R.

Fire is an important control on the carbon (C) balance of the boreal forest region. Here, we present findings from two complementary studies that examine how fire modifies soil organic matter properties, and how these modifications influence rates of decomposition and C exchange in black spruce (Picea mariana) ecosystems of interior Alaska. First, we used laboratory incubations to explore soil temperature, moisture, and vegetation effects on CO2 and DOC production rates in burned and unburned soils from three study regions in interior Alaska. Second, at one of the study regions used in the incubation experiments, we conducted intensive field measurements of net ecosystem exchange (NEE) and ecosystem respiration...
Climate change has increased the area affected by forest fires each year in boreal North America. Increases in burned area and fire frequency are expected to stimulate boreal carbon losses. However, the impact of wildfires on carbon emissions is also affected by the severity of burning. How climate change influences the severity of biomass burning has proved difficult to assess. Here, we examined the depth of ground-layer combustion in 178 sites dominated by black spruce in Alaska, using data collected from 31 fire events between 1983 and 2005. We show that the depth of burning increased as the fire season progressed when the annual area burned was small. However, deep burning occurred throughout the fire season...
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