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Climate Change and Forest Fire Activity in Canada B.J. Stocks, M.D. Flannigan, B.M. Wotton, B.D. Amiro, and J.B. Todd Natural Resources Canada – Canadian.

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Presentation on theme: "Climate Change and Forest Fire Activity in Canada B.J. Stocks, M.D. Flannigan, B.M. Wotton, B.D. Amiro, and J.B. Todd Natural Resources Canada – Canadian."— Presentation transcript:

1 Climate Change and Forest Fire Activity in Canada B.J. Stocks, M.D. Flannigan, B.M. Wotton, B.D. Amiro, and J.B. Todd Natural Resources Canada – Canadian Forest Service Presentation to Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry April 10, 2003 Ottawa, Ontario

2 Circumboreal Forest Fire Activity Annual burned area: 5-15 million hectares Annual burned area: 5-15 million hectares Primarily Canada, Russia and Alaska Primarily Canada, Russia and Alaska Russian stats underestimated – should be 5 to 10 times higher Russian stats underestimated – should be 5 to 10 times higher Area burned shows great inter-annual variability Area burned shows great inter-annual variability Continental climate, extreme weather/fire danger conditions, multiple ignitions, and closed canopy forests are main drivers of boreal fire activity Continental climate, extreme weather/fire danger conditions, multiple ignitions, and closed canopy forests are main drivers of boreal fire activity

3 Boreal Fire Importance/Characteristics Dominant disturbance regime, natural & essential to ecosystem maintenance, C cycling, biodiversity Dominant disturbance regime, natural & essential to ecosystem maintenance, C cycling, biodiversity Sensitive to climate change – major carbon budget implications - 40% of terrestrial C in boreal zone Sensitive to climate change – major carbon budget implications - 40% of terrestrial C in boreal zone High fuel consumption, fast spread rates, sustained high intensity levels, towering convection columns (upper troposphere) with long-range smoke transport potential High fuel consumption, fast spread rates, sustained high intensity levels, towering convection columns (upper troposphere) with long-range smoke transport potential

4 Canadian Fire Statistics Incomplete prior to 1970 Incomplete prior to 1970 < certainty further back in time < certainty further back in time Now 8000 fires, 2.8 million ha/yr Now 8000 fires, 2.8 million ha/yr $500 million annually $500 million annually Area burned is highly episodic Area burned is highly episodic  0.7 to 7.6 million ha Level of protection issue Level of protection issue  Protect resources vs natural fire Lightning fires Lightning fires  35% of total fires /85% AB Fire size Fire size  3% of fires are >200 ha (used in Large Fire Database)  Remainder suppressed early  Represent 97% of area burned

5 Large Fire Database (LFDB) Fires >200 ha post-1950 nationally Fires >200 ha post-1950 nationally Polygons with attributes (fire size, cause, start and end dates etc.) from fire management agencies Polygons with attributes (fire size, cause, start and end dates etc.) from fire management agencies 1980s fires in central Canada illustrated 1980s fires in central Canada illustrated Updated annually – working back in time with satellite imagery Updated annually – working back in time with satellite imagery

6 Lightning/Human-Caused Fires Most lightning fires in north, H-C along travel corridors Most lightning fires in north, H-C along travel corridors Generally lightning fires grow larger – detection/access issue Generally lightning fires grow larger – detection/access issue Lightning fire contribution to area burned increasing in recent decades Lightning fire contribution to area burned increasing in recent decades

7 Actioned/Non-Actioned Fires Many fires allowed to burn naturally, mainly in north Many fires allowed to burn naturally, mainly in north Management decision based on values-at-risk Management decision based on values-at-risk Constitutes ~50% of area burned in Canada post-1959 Constitutes ~50% of area burned in Canada post-1959

8 LFDB Fire Size Distribution by Ecozone Greatest area burned in boreal and taiga zones of west-central Canada where unsuppressed fire is common and fire climate most severe Larger size-class fires, although less frequent, account for most of area burned

9 Carbon Release Through Fire Direct release to atmosphere averages 27 Tg C/yr (20% of Canada’s fossil fuel emissions) - preliminary estimate - need further severity/decomposition work Direct release to atmosphere averages 27 Tg C/yr (20% of Canada’s fossil fuel emissions) - preliminary estimate - need further severity/decomposition work Younger forests weaker C sinks than mature forests Younger forests weaker C sinks than mature forests Takes years to fully recover after fire (confirmed from flux tower, aircraft and satellite measurements) Takes years to fully recover after fire (confirmed from flux tower, aircraft and satellite measurements)

10 Disturbances and the Carbon Budget Area (Million ha) ClearCutFireInsectsTotal Tg C / yr Variable TempConstant Temp Source Sink Note change after 1970 Note rise in natural disturbances (fire and insects) post 1970 Corresponding decrease in C sink strength of CDN forest post-1970

11 Anticipated Changes in Seasonal Fire Danger and Fire Season Length Fire season length increases by 10 to 50 days by 2090 Seasonal fire danger increases by % by 2090

12 Increase in weather conditions conducive to fires Increase in weather conditions conducive to fires More frequent and severe fire activity More frequent and severe fire activity Projected impacts: Projected impacts:  More area burned, shorter fire return intervals  Younger age class structure  Ecosystem boundary/vegetation shifting  Less terrestrial C storage  Impacts on forest industry/communities  Health/pollution issues Positive feedback to climate change (>GHG emissions) Positive feedback to climate change (>GHG emissions) Need to quantify impacts in order to assess options Need to quantify impacts in order to assess options Adaptation will be required Adaptation will be required Ongoing CFS climate change/fire research addressing impacts and adaptation in collaboration with provinces/territories Ongoing CFS climate change/fire research addressing impacts and adaptation in collaboration with provinces/territories Funding through Green Plan, Climate Change Action Fund, Action Plan 2000 and CRAs with provinces Funding through Green Plan, Climate Change Action Fund, Action Plan 2000 and CRAs with provinces Anticipated Fire Impacts

13 Adapting to Increasing Fire Activity Local scale: Local scale: Community protection (FIRESMART) Community protection (FIRESMART) Regional scale: Regional scale: Pilot fuelbreaks project – break up fuel continuity to limit fire effects on fiber production Pilot fuelbreaks project – break up fuel continuity to limit fire effects on fiber production Level of protection effectiveness studies – cost of maintaining status quo with increasing risk, protect less and permit more natural fire Level of protection effectiveness studies – cost of maintaining status quo with increasing risk, protect less and permit more natural fire National scale: National scale: Cannot mitigate fire impacts across whole boreal forest Cannot mitigate fire impacts across whole boreal forest Adapt based on values-at-risk Adapt based on values-at-risk Evaluate the impacts of an increased fire regime for policy-makers Evaluate the impacts of an increased fire regime for policy-makers

14 Questions?


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