Forest Fire Activity In The Boreal Zone

Human settlement and exploitation of the resource-rich boreal zone has been accomplished in conjunction with the development of highly efficient forest fire management systems designed to detect and suppress unwanted fires quickly and efficiently. Over the past century people throughout northern forest ecosystems have, at times somewhat uneasily, coexisted with this important natural force, as fire management agencies attempted to balance public safety concerns and the industrial and recreational use of these forests, with costs, and the need for natural forest cycling through forest fires. Canadian, Russian, and American fire managers have always designated parts of the boreal zone, usually in northern regions, as "lower priority" zones that receive little or no fire protection, since fires occurring there generally have little or no significant detrimental impact on public safety and forest values. This policy has become more widely accepted with the realisation that total fire exclusion is neither possible nor ecologically desirable, which initiated a gradual move toward the widespread adoption of fire management strategies that priorize protection of high-value resources while permitting natural fire in more remote areas. This is particularly true in the boreal forest regions of Canada, Russia, and Alaska where lower population densities and forest use allow more flexible fire management strategies.

A detailed examination of forest fire statistics from northern circumpolar countries shows that, while humans have had an influence on the extent and impact of boreal fires, fire still dominates as a disturbance regime in the boreal biome, with an estimated 5-10 million hectares burning annually in this region (Stocks 1991). Canada and Alaska, despite progressive fire management programs, still regularly experience significant, resource-stretching fire problems. In contrast, Scandinavian countries do not seem to have major large fire problems, probably due to the easy access resulting from intensive forest management over virtually all of the forested area of these countries.

Russian fire statistics are available over the past four decades but, until recent years, these statistics are considered very unreliable. The following boreal zone fire statistics are summarised from Stocks 1991, and updated using published UN-ECE/FAO statistics (e.g. UN-ECE/FAO 1997) and summaries from International Forest Fire News (United Nations FAO/ECE, Geneva).

0 0

Post a comment