SoE Seminar Series: Change in Carbon Sink or Source Due to Wildfires by Yara Kayed

Friday, September 11, 2020 - 14:00


Change in Carbon Sink or Source Due to Wildfires

by Yara Kayed

Wildfires are natural disturbance that have been occurring more frequently in the 21st century. More research is been done on them to observe the carbon sink-source after a wildfire. There is various of contradicting research on this topic. (Wardle et al., 2003) suggests that wildfires are significant carbon storage. (Walker et al., 2019) notes that substantial amounts of carbon are transferred to the atmosphere whenever forest burns to the extent that they amplify global warming. Similarly, (Kelley & Harrison,2014) argues that wildfires can influence the climate of the entire globe. It is a climate-sensitive process with the potential to transfer substantial stocks of terrestrial carbon to the atmosphere, reduce the amount of carbon stored in landscapes, and change the ecosystems carbon balance. Worrall et al. (2011) have provided contradictory results regarding the influences of wildfires on carbon balance. The researchers suggest that wildfires are fundamental components in developing carbon sinks. They replenish the vegetation as once the old and slow-growing trees are destroyed; young and actively growing ones develop faster with increased abilities to maintain carbon balance. The impacts of fire on carbon stocks on different ecosystems, especially those with no recent fire disturbance histories, are not known. It is, therefore, necessary to study how carbon source or sink changes due to wildfires. Understanding these will present researchers with substantial knowledge regarding the ecosystem's changes, increase in atmospheric CO2, global warming, and landscape carbon storage reduction. Therefore, the current study seeks to provide a clear consensus regarding the influences of wildfire on carbon balance. 

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Balshi, M. S., McGuire, A. D., Duffy, P., Flannigan, M., Kicklighter, D. W., & Melillo, J. (2009). Vulnerability of carbon storage in North American boreal forests to wildfires during the 21st century. Global change biology, 15(6), 1491-1510. 

Kelley, D. I., & Harrison, S. P. (2014). Enhanced Australian carbon sink despite increased wildfire during the 21st century. Environmental Research Letters, 9(10), 104015. 

Mack, M. C., Bret-Harte, M. S., Hollingsworth, T. N., Jandt, R. R., Schuur, E. A., Shaver, G. R., & Verbyla, D. L. (2011). Carbon loss from an unprecedented Arctic tundra wildfire. Nature, 475(7357), 489-492. 

Rothstein, D. E., Yermakov, Z., & Buell, A. L. (2004). Loss and recovery of ecosystem carbon pools following stand-replacing wildfire in Michigan jack pine forests. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 34(9), 1908-1918. 

Walker, X. J., Baltzer, J. L., Cumming, S. G., Day, N. J., Ebert, C., Goetz, S., ... & Turetsky, M. R. (2019). Increasing wildfires threaten historic carbon sink of boreal forest soils. Nature, 572(7770), 520-523. 

Wardle, D. A., Hörnberg, G., Zackrisson, O., Kalela-Brundin, M., & Coomes, D. A. (2003). Long-term effects of wildfire on ecosystem properties across an island area gradient. Science, 300(5621), 972-975. 

Worrall, F., Rowson, J. G., Evans, M. G., Pawson, R., Daniels, S., & Bonn, A. (2011). Carbon fluxes from eroding peatlands–the carbon benefit of revegetation following wildfire. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 36(11), 1487-1498


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