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Research article2015Peer reviewed

A 700-year record of large fire years in northern Scandinavia shows large variability and increased frequency during the 1800 s

Drobyshev, Igor; Bergeron, Yves; Linderholm, Hans W.; Granström, Anders; Niklasson, Mats


Years with climatically mediated increases in boreal forest fire activity, referred to as large fire years (LFYs), contribute to a disproportionally large portion of the burned area over centuries, and are important drivers of ecosystem processes by affecting forest structure, biodiversity, and carbon balance at regional and continental scales. We analysed changes in LFY return intervals in northern Sweden (the area above 60 degrees N) over 1273-1960 using a network of 29 sites with dendrochronologically reconstructed fires, complemented by documentary records of fires available from forestry statistics. We observed large variability in return intervals of LFYs, an increase in LFY frequency during the 1800s, and consistent associations between LFY occurrence and 500-hPa pressure anomalies over the European sub-continent over 1800xps2#1960. An increase in LFY frequency during the 1800s might be climatically driven, and would thus long precede the period of likely human-induced climatic changes of the 1900s. Long-term variability in climatically driven LFYs may present a challenge in partitioning the effects of human-related and human-independent components of climatic forcing upon forest fire activity.


boreal forest; climate change; climate forcing; disturbance regimes; fire reconstruction; fire suppression

Published in

Journal of Quaternary Science
2015, Volume: 30, number: 3, pages: 211-221 Publisher: WILEY-BLACKWELL