Black spruce forests becoming less resilient following wildfires

Dr. Jill Johnstone

A new study has documented declines in the resilience of northern black spruce forests to wildfires in the Yukon and across Canada. YukonU research associate, Dr. Jill Johnstone co-authored a publication with Wilfred Laurier University’s Dr. Jennifer Baltzer and colleagues, which examined data from over 1500 wildfire sites in Boreal North America to seek insight about forest regeneration. They found that there was a decrease in the ability of black spruce to recover following fire, which is unexpected because it is considered a fire-adapted species.  

Northern climates are changing in ways that favour more wildfire activity. The results of the study indicate that climate change is causing wildfires to burn forest soils more deeply than ever before, which in combination with lower soil moisture contributes to a lack of regrowth in a previously thriving species.   

This new type of burn and poor recovery of black spruce forests is rapidly changing the ecology of the Northern boreal forest. Everything from air movement within the forest, to the habitat of the animals that reside within it will have to adapt to the density loss of black spruce, which has historically been the most common forest type across Canada’s northern boreal forests.  

Learn more in the media release from Wilfred Laurier University.