Wildfires in boreal ecosystems: past, present and future fire regimes

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Wildfire is a primary natural process in circumboreal forests from Alaska to Russia, organizing physical and biological attributes of the forests, shaping their landscape diversity, and influencing their biogeochemical cycles. Despite the increasing importance of human activity as a source of fire ignition, climate and weather remain major contributors to large stand-replacing fires in these forests. Because fire activity is intimately related to weather and climate, the warming trend in the Northern Hemisphere that started in the 1850s and accelerated in the 1970s has become a major issue in fire science. It is anticipated that further warming over the 21st century will enhance fire frequency and area burned in many boreal forests, with severe environmental and economic consequences. The increasing frequency of extreme fire years in northwestern Canada over the last decades supports this scenario.

Predicting the probability of changes in fire regimes in the regional domain and at mid-term timescales is useful to forest managers as well as climate and carbon modelers. Evaluating the causes of recent changes in fire regimes, notably in the context of climate variability (e.g. oceanic teleconnections) and change (e.g. greenhouse gas forcing), is equally relevant. In the current era of climate change, understanding past and predicting future fire regimes are scientific challenges that are central to the development of effective forest management policies aimed at greenhouse gas mitigation and to increasing adaptation capacity in response to climate change. These objectives, however, remain difficult to achieve. Uncertainties about future fire regimes can be superimposed on the short time period covered by existing meteorological data and fire statistics, from which a historical range of variability can be determined.

This conference has for main objective to gather researchers working on the reconstruction and modeling of past, present and future fire regimes. This gathering will illustrate how effective collaborations are developed amongst the numerous researchers, and will enhance new collaborations across Europe and North America. About 60-70 participants are expected to attend. This interdisciplinary conference, lasting 4 days, will facilitate contacts and stimulate intellectual exchanges.

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