Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 16

Seedlings

TREE SCARS RECORD 700 YEARS OF NATURAL AND CULTURAL FIRE HISTORY
IN A NORTHERN FOREST
Until the modern era, the human mark on the
northernmost forests of North America, Europe and
Asia was light. Human populations in these challenging
environments were too small to make a big impact
through agriculture or timber harvests. But increasing
evidence indicates people influenced the northern
forests indirectly, by igniting or suppressing fires.
Distinguishing human from climatic influence on
historical fire patterns is critical to forest management
planning, which is guided by historical patterns of fire
frequency, size and intensity.
Forest fires can be catastrophic and damaging for
both home owners and the forest industry. But forest
fires play an important part in the ecology of northern
forests. Natural forests are not a continuous expanse
of old trees. Forest fires create a mosaic of burnt and
unburnt areas, shaping the species composition and
the age distribution of the forest. Fires open up the
tree canopy, letting light in, releasing nutrients to the
understory, and aiding regrowth. Charcoal changes soil
structure, and charred tree trunks become habitats of
great importance for the biological diversity of the forest
- both above and below ground. Many rare species,
especially fungi and insects, depend on the variation
forest fires create.
A boreal forest nature reserve in southern Norway
offered a unique opportunity to reconstruct past events,

16 WOODLAND * Fall 2017

as scientists from the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy
Research (NIBIO) demonstrated in a report published in
the Ecological Society of America's journal Ecological
Monographs. The trees told a story of a surge in humaninstigated fires during the 17th and 18th centuries,
followed by fire suppression after AD 1800, as economic
motivations changed.
Unlike the boreal forests of North America, which
more frequently experience fires hot enough to kill most
trees, the forests of Norway, Sweden, and Finland
characteristically burn at low to medium intensity. Fires
burn through the understory, leaving mature trees scarred,
but living. The burn scars, combined with tree ring data,
and historical documents, present a record of wildfire
behavior in the second millennium.
Together with former PhD-student Ylva-li Blanck of the
Norwegian University of Life Science, researchers Jørund
Rolstad and Ken Olaf Storaunet collected and analyzed
459 wood samples from old, fire-damaged pine tree
stumps, snags, downed logs and living trees in 74 square
kilometers (28 square miles) study area in TrillemarkaRollagsfjell nature reserve.
At 60 degrees North, Trillemarka-Rollagsfjell shares a
latitude close to Anchorage, Alaska and Whitehorse, the
capital of Canada's Yukon province. The pine and spruce
dominated forest ecosystem has many traits in common
with the forested ecosystems of interior Alaska and Canada.

Darius Pabrinkis/Shutterstock

Continued



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Woodlands - Fall 2017

Overstory
Tools and Resources
Forests and Families
A Legacy to Keep
From Forests to Fermentation
Feathering a Forested Nest
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - intro
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - cover1
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - cover2
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 3
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - Overstory
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 5
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 6
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 7
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 8
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 9
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 10
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 11
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 12
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 13
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 14
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 15
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 16
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 17
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - Tools and Resources
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 19
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - Forests and Families
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 21
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 22
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 23
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - A Legacy to Keep
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 25
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 26
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 27
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 28
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 29
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - From Forests to Fermentation
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 31
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 32
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 33
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - Feathering a Forested Nest
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 35
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 36
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 37
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 38
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - cover3
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - cover4
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