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Forest Fires Sweden

Forest recovery and management impacts after wildfire - an interdisciplinary perspective

Abstract

In 2018, Sweden experienced its most severe wildfire season in modern history. Climate warming is predicted to increase the frequency of wildfires, yet knowledge on the impacts of fire and post-fire management decisions in Eurasian forests is scarce. We address these knowledge gaps by examining Sweden’s largest wildfire from 2018. The project links the research of experts in soil microbiology, biogeochemistry, biodiversity and micrometeorology to provide an interdisciplinary picture of the impacts of the fire on the forest ecosystem.

Forest burning by on all sides of road. Photo.
Photo: Marco Hassoldt

About the project

Wildfires are a natural disturbance in the boreal forest and contribute to its regeneration and biodiversity. In the short term, the most evident effects of forest fires seem negative: they remove vegetation, burn soils, and cause huge economic loss. They also release vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, first when vegetation is burned and later as the dead vegetation decays.

However, in the long term, the emitted carbon dioxide can be stored again as the trees regrow, slowly returning the forest to a carbon sink. Studying forest recovery after wildfire is vital for understanding the net impact of the wildfire on the forest ecosystem and its carbon balance.

The record-breaking hot and dry summer of 2018 resulted in Sweden’s most extreme wildfire season in modern history, but such extremes are likely to become the ‘new normal’ under our warming climate. Little is known about how much greenhouse gases are released during and after a wildfire, about how much of the stored carbon is lost, or about how the energy exchange at the Earth's surface is changed because of a fire.

Even less is known about how different forest management practices after the fire impact the greenhouse gas budget of the recovering forest. This uncertainty impairs climate model predictions and undermines the identification of post-fire management practices that best support Swedish climate targets and the Paris Agreement.

Since September 2018, our international team of experts, in collaboration with the Swedish forest agency, has been monitoring the impacts of the largest wildfire of 2018 in the centre of Sweden. The project focuses on:

  1. Measuring the impact of the fire and post-fire forest management strategies on the above- and below-ground forest ecosystem and its carbon balance
  2. Modelling the greenhouse gas budget and climate forcing of the wildfire for use in future climate projections

Publications

Boreal forest soil carbon fluxes one year after a wildfire: Effects of burn severity and management – portal.research.lu.se