Restricted plant diversity limits carbon recapture after wildfire in warming boreal forests

Johan A. Eckdahl, Jeppe A. Kristensen, Daniel B. Metcalfe

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikel i vetenskaplig tidskriftPeer review


Incomplete wildfire combustion in boreal forests leaves behind legacy plant-soil feedbacks known to restrict plant biodiversity. These restrictions can inhibit carbon recapture after fire by limiting ecosystem transition to vegetation growth patterns that are capable of offsetting warmth-enhanced soil decomposition under climate change. Here, we field-surveyed plant regrowth conditions 2 years after 49 separate, naturally-occurring wildfires spanning the near-entire climatic range of boreal Fennoscandia in order to determine the local to regional scale drivers of early vegetation recovery. Minimal conifer reestablishment was found across a broad range of fire severities, though residual organic soil and plant structure was associated with restricted growth of a variety of more warmth-adapted vegetation, such as broadleaf trees. This dual regeneration limitation coincided with greater concentrations of bacterial decomposers in the soil under increased mean annual temperature, potentially enhancing soil carbon release. These results suggest that large portions of the boreal region are currently at risk of extending postfire periods of net emissions of carbon to the atmosphere under limitations in plant biodiversity generated by wildfire and a changing climate.

TidskriftCommunications Earth and Environment
StatusPublished - 2024 dec.

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