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The long-term effects of fire suppression and reforestation on a forest

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The long-term effects of fire suppression and reforestation on a forest landscape in Northeastern China after a catastrophic wildfireIntroductionStudy areaMethodsDescription of LANDISSpecies attributes and forest composition mapLand type mapSimulation scenariosResultsFire dynamicsSpecies abundanceAge structureDiscussionEffects of fire suppressionEffects of reforestationSome limitationsConclusionAcknowledgementsReferencesLandscape and Urban Planning 79 (2007) 84–95The long-term effects of fire suppression and reforestation on a forestlandscape in Northeastern China after a catastrophic wildfireXugao Wanga,c,∗, Hong S. Heb, Xiuzhen LiaaInstitute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Science, P.O. Box 417, Shenyang 110016, ChinabSchool of Natural Resources, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USAcGraduate School of Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing 100039, ChinaReceived 14 October 2005; received in revised form 21 March 2006; accepted 23 March 2006Available online 19 June 2006AbstractThis study used the LANDIS model to evaluate the effects of fire suppression and reforestation on fire dynamics, species abundance, and agestructure of two main species (larch (Larix gmelinii) and white birch (Betula platyphylla)) in Tuqiang Forest Bureau on the northern slopes ofGreat Hing’an Mountains after a catastrophic fire in 1987. Three fire regimes (no fire, low fire suppression, and current high fire suppression) andtwo planting strategies (no planting and larch planting) were compared in a 3 × 2 factorial design using 10 replicated simulations per treatmentcombination over a 300-year period. The results showed that compared with low fire suppression scenario, high fire suppression would create alandscape with lower-frequency and higher-intensity fire, whereas reforestation had no significant influence on cumulative area damaged by firein the study landscape. High fire suppression positively influenced larch abundance, but negatively influenced white birch abundance. The resultsshowed under high fire suppression scenario, over-mature larch forests had greater abundance than that under low fire suppression scenario, whereasyounger cohorts show an opposite pattern to the old age cohorts. Under the “larch planting” scenario, larch at each age class had a greater abundancethan that under the “no planting” scenario. Younger cohorts of white birch under the high fire suppression scenario had a lower abundance thanthat under the low fire suppression.The results also showed that reforestation positively influenced larch abundance, but negatively influenced white birch abundance. Comparedwith the “no planting” scenario, it would take 30–40 years longer for larch abundance to return to pre-fire abundance in 1987 than under the “larchplanting” scenario. Also, under the “larch planting” scenario, larch always had an obviously greater abundance than that under the “no planting”scenario in the 300-year simulation. Therefore, reforestation would benefit larch recovery, which could last for more than 300 years. These resultshave important implications for forest managers to design sound forest restoration projects for landscapes affected by large infrequent disturbancesby fire. In particular, the results suggest that high fire suppression and reforestation would be appropriate in the study landscape, based on thepurpose of local government to increase the abundance of coniferous forests as soon as possible.© 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.Keywords: Great Hing’an Mountains; LANDIS; Fire suppression; Reforestation; Forest recovery1. IntroductionThe deciduous and coniferous forests of the Great Hing’anMountains in northeastern China provide greater wood pro-duction than other forested regions in the country. This areaalso encompasses unique ecological and environmental systems(Zhou, 1991; Xu, 1998). Fire disturbance is the important driv-ing force of forest ecosystem dynamics in the region (Zhou,∗Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 24 83970350; fax: +86 24 83970351.E-mail addresses: [email protected], [email protected](X. Wang), [email protected] (H.S. He), [email protected] (X. Li).1991). Fire disturbance regimes have been strongly modified byhumans during 20th century. The success of fire suppression,coupled with a warmer, drier climate due to global warming(Xu, 1998), have led to fuel buildup and resulted in fires ofgreater intensity and extent than those that occurred historicallyin the region. On May 6, 1987, a catastrophic fire occurred onthe northern slopes of Great Hing’an Mountains, burning a totalarea of 1.3 × 106ha, with disastrous effects on forest composi-tion and structure, ecosystem processes, and landscape pattern(Xiao et al., 1988; Shu et al., 1996).Forest recovery in such vastly burned areas is challengingbecause the long-term landscape-level vegetation dynamics in aforest landscape are complicated by spatial and temporal inter-0169-2046/$ – see front matter © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2006.03.010X. Wang et al. / Landscape and Urban Planning 79 (2007) 84–95 85actions among multiple ecological and anthropogenic processes.In many cases, natural succession can eventually lead to post-fire recovery. This is especially true for cases in which thereare sufficient residual forests remaining nearby to act as seedsources (Turner et al., 1999; Borchert et al., 2003). In cases suchas the 1987 fire in the Great Hing’an Mountains, natural recov-ery is difficult because of the extent of the affected area, theseverity of the damage, and the lack of seed sources (Xiao et al.,1988). In these situations, the process of vegetation recovery isslow, increasing the risk of environmental degradation, includ-ing soil erosion. Thus, ecological restoration through humanmediation is necessary. After the 1987 fire, forest managementin this region shifted from timber harvesting to reforestation,particularly in the severely burned areas, in order to accelerateforest restoration.Various restoration approaches have been developed fordegraded systems where natural recovery is unlikely. Grass seed-ing provides quick, temporary vegetation ground cover; theseare typically annuals or short-lived perennials that can holdthe soil (Beyers, 2004). However, such a treatment does notfacilitate long-term ecosystem restoration. Long-term ecosys-tem restorations are accomplished either through the plantingof a small number of early


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