How fires are changing the tundra’s face

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Gawdzilla Sama
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How fires are changing the tundra’s face

Postby Gawdzilla Sama » Wed Dec 13, 2017 11:24 am

How fires are changing the tundra’s face

Date: December 12, 2017

Source: British Ecological Society (BES)

Summary: Climate change takes a heavy toll on the tundra, increasing the probability of extreme droughts. As a result, the frequency of fires in forests, bogs and even wetlands continues to rise. In addition, the northern areas of the tundra have also become more accessible and negatively impacted by human activities in recent years.

Climate change takes a heavy toll on the tundra, increasing the probability of extreme droughts. As a result, the frequency of fires in forests, bogs and even wetlands continues to rise. In addition, the northern areas of the tundra have also become more accessible and negatively impacted by human activities in recent years.

Two young ecologists from the University of Münster are studying the serious consequences fires can have for vegetation, soils and some endangered bird species. Even decades after the last fire event, impacts on plant communities are clearly visible. They will present their results at the 'Ecology Across Borders' conference in Ghent, Belgium this week.

PhD student Ramona Heim from Professor Norbert Hölzel's working group at the Institute of Landscape Ecology, University of Münster, compared two study sites in northeastern Russia, where the last fires occurred 11 and more than 30 years ago. At the younger site, soil temperature and permafrost depth were significantly higher and lichen cover was much reduced. In contrast, moss, grass and herb species were more abundant compared to control sites nearby.

"Soil temperature at our older study site is no longer impacted by the fire, but even 30-odd years after the fire event, lichens have not completely recovered," says Ramona Heim. "The dense cover of shrubs was a surprise. Usually, fires prevent the formation of dense shrub layers, but these results suggest that tundra fires could promote it instead," she adds.


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