Partitioning carbon losses from fire combustion in a montane valley, Alberta Canada

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Gerrand, S.
Aspinall, Jesse
Jensen, T.
Hopkinson, Christopher
Collingwood, A.
Chasmer, Laura
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Direct carbon (C) emissions from wildland fires have been difficult to quantify, especially in montane environments where sites are difficult to access. Here we examined pre-fire C partitioning and losses in a southern Canadian montane valley ecosystem, in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta Canada. The objectives of this study were to: (a) quantify the C loss due to combustion at a moist riparian site compared with a dry undulating upland site and (b) compare C loss observations to an active multi-spectral lidar remote sensing index. C losses from wildfire were consistently greater at the wet riparian site compared with the dry valley site. Average soil C losses were 92.92 Mg C ha −1 (st. dev. ± 48.60 Mg C ha −1) and 58.05 Mg C ha −1 (st. dev. ± 37.19 Mg C ha −1). Average tree C losses were 114.0 Mg C ha −1 ( ± 9.9 Mg C ha −1) and 86.9 Mg C ha −1 ( ± 13.5 Mg C ha −1) respectively. C losses from trees were greater than soils, where trees lost 55% (moist riparian ecosystem) and about 60% (drier valley site) of C during combustion. Using post-fire multi-spectral airborne lidar data, we found that increased proportion of charred soils were significantly related to enhanced reflectivity in SWIR, resulted in more negative active normalised burn ratio (aNBR) results, indicating enhanced burn severity. Increased proportional cover of regenerating vegetation resulted in less negative aNBR both at the drier site, though no significant relationships between aNBR and charred vs. vegetated results were observed at the moist riparian site. No significant relationship was observed between depth of burn/soil C loss and aNBR derived from lidar data, indicating potential limitations when using burn indices for below canopy burn severity. The use of multi-spectral lidar may improve understanding of below canopy fire fuels and C losses in optical imagery, which often occludes these important components of fire ecology. The results of this research improve understanding of C losses associated with wildland fire in montane ecosystems that have undergone fire suppression and management by Euro-American colonizers for over 100 years.
Open access article. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International LIcense (CC BY-NC-NC 4.0) applies
Soil carbon , Multi-spectral lidar , Fire severity , Carbon stocks , Montane ecosystems
Gerrand, S., Aspinall, J., Jensen, T., Hopkinson, C., Collingwood, A., & Chasmer, L. (2021). Partitioning carbon losses from fire combustion in a montane valley, Alberta Canada. Forest Ecology and Management, 496, Article 119435.