Catastrophic fires in forest ecosystems cause enormous greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, especially carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. Their frequency increases with climate change, contributing in turn to the greenhouse effect. About 10% of global carbon emissions from fire occur in boreal and temperate forests. In areas with high population density and economic infrastructure, the consequences can be much higher, especially when it comes to forest and peat fires, where burning also affects peat soils. Lower water tables lead to deeper fire penetration, more damage to trees, and loss of carbon in the soil, contributing to carbon dioxide emissions and increasing climate change. In some years, greenhouse gas emissions from peat fires can account for up to 15% of global anthropogenic emissions.

As a result of smoldering combustion, peat fires can burn for long periods of time, continuing through the rains and snow cover. Smoldering combustion emits not only CO2, but also organic volatiles, which are hazardous to human health. Recognizing the climate impacts of forest and peat fires, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2014) emphasizes the methodological challenges of accounting for emissions from peat fires and the lack of data on carbon losses from peat fires. To estimate the carbon loss from forest and peat fires, soil and biomass carbon losses must be accounted for.

The article “Assessing Wood and Soil Carbon Losses from a Forest-Peat Fire in the Boreo-Nemoral Zone” published in the journal Forests (MDPI) by a team of authors of the Federal Forest Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the University of Greifswald (Germany) analyzes biomass and peat carbon losses and, consequently, carbon dioxide emissions by the example of the 2010 forest and peat fire in the Moscow region. Pre-fire forest cover was reconstructed using retrospective high-resolution multispectral satellite imagery and ground surveys of surrounding forests. Based on the position of the root necks of the preserved tree stumps in the burned area, the authors reconstructed the original pre-fire peat surface, comparing the stratigraphy of peat in the burned and adjacent unburned areas. This allowed an estimate of fire-related soil carbon loss.

DOI: 10.3390/f12070880. The journal is in the first quartile of Web of Science in the Forestry category. Read this article as well as other publications of IFS RAS staff on our website in the section Publications.