QUANTIFYING FIRE-INDUCED SURFACE FORCING IN SIBERIAN LARCH FORESTS
Loboda, Tatiana V.
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Wildfires are a common disturbance agent in the global boreal forests. In the North American boreal forests, they have been shown to exert a strong cooling effect through post-fire changes in surface albedo that has a larger overall impact on the climate system than associated carbon emissions. However, these findings are not directly applicable to the Siberian larch forests, a major component of the boreal biome where species composition are dominated by a deciduous needleleaf species and fire regimes are characterized by the common occurrence of both stand-replacing and less-severe surface fires. This dissertation quantifies the post-fire surface forcing imposed by both fire types in these forests over 14 years since fire, and determines that both surface and stand replacing fires impose cooling effects through increased albedo during snow season. The magnitude of the cooling effect from stand replacing fires is much larger than that of surface fires, and this is likely a consequence of higher levels of canopy damage after stand-replacing fires. At its peak (~ year 11 after fire occurrence), the cooling magnitude is similar to that of the North American boreal fires. Strong cooling effect and the wide-spread occurrence of stand-replacing fires lead to a net negative surface forcing over the entire region between 2002 and 2013. Based on the extended albedo trajectory which was made possible by developing a 24-year stand age map, it was shown that the cooling effect of stand-replacing fires lasts for more than 26 years. The overall cooling effect of surface fires is of lower magnitude and is likely indicative of damages not only to the canopies but also the shrubs in the understory. Based on the identified difference in their influences on post-fire energy budget, this dissertation also identified a remote sensing method to separate surface fires from stand-replacing fires in Siberian larch forests with an 88% accuracy. The insights gained from this dissertation will allow for accurate representation of wildfires in the regional or global climate models in the future.