Canadian land cover map / study areas
The BOREAS-follow on Project to determine how carbon storage in boreal forests change in response to wildfire was set in the northern edge of the Canadian boreal forest in Manitoba, Canada, the former Northern Study Area (NSA) in Thompson Manitoba from BOREAS. CREDIT: Canadian Model Forest Program
Northern study area
This satellite image of the Northern Study Area, Manitoba, Canada was taken by the Landsat satellite on July 25, 1990. The bodies of water can be seen in blue. The landscape is a mosaic of different aged stands that are in various stages of recovery from wildfire. Each of the colored patches corresponds to a different aged stand. The years corresponding to the areas indicate the last year of forest fire. CREDIT: NASA/USGS
Scientists studying trees ranging from saplings to 130 years old in Canada’s northern forests have discovered that the period since a fire last swept through an area determines how much carbon the forest can store. Twenty to forty year old stands absorb more carbon than those 70 years old and older, despite being smaller and having less biomass or plant material.
Boreal or northern forests account for close to 25 percent of total carbon stored in vegetation and soils in the Earth’s biosphere. Wildfires burn down individual areas every 40 to 250 years and are an important part of this ecosystem. Whether or not these forests are likely to lower or raise levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere depends on how these carbon reserves respond to, and recover from, both climate change and disturbances such as wildfires.
NASA funded part of this study under its Earth Science Enterprise (ESE), whose mission is to understand and protect our home planet. Earth Science in NASA seeks to understand trends in land cover and land use, such as forest fires, that drive global climate. Another Earth Science program objective is to understand the Earth system’s response to natural and human-induced changes, and effects on global carbon cycle.
Rob Gutro | NASA / Goddard Space Flight Cent
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