Silva Fennica (Jan 2011)

Fire regime and old-growth boreal forests in central Quebec, Canada: an ecosystem management perspective

  • Bélisle, Annie,
  • Gauthier, Sylvie,
  • Cyr, Dominic,
  • Bergeron, Yves,
  • Morin, Hubert

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 45, no. 5


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Boreal forest management in Eastern Canada has caused depletion and fragmentation of old-growth ecosystems, with growing impacts on the associated biodiversity. To mitigate impacts of management while maintaining timber supplies, ecosystem management aims to narrow the gap between natural and managed landscapes. Our study describes the fire history and associated natural old-growth forest proportions and distribution of a 5000 km area located in the black spruce-feather moss forest of central Quebec. We reconstructed a stand-origin map using archival data, aerial photos and dendrochronology. According to survival analysis (Cox hazard model), the mean fire cycle length was 247 years for the 1734–2009 period. Age-class distribution modelling showed that old-growth forests were present on an average of 55% of the landscape over the last 275 years. The mean fire size was 10 113 ha, while most of the burned area was attributable to fires larger than 10 000 ha, leading to old-growth agglomerations of hundreds of square kilometres. In regards to our findings, we propose ecosystem management targets and strategies to preserve forest diversity and resilience.2