Site: Arctic LTER

The 2007 Anaktuvuk River fire. We have studied both the thermokarst and fire impacts on ecosystem processes at our Arctic LTER.
Credit: ARC LTER

In 2007, a massive tundra fire released ~2 Pg of carbon into the atmosphere. Climate-driven fire may accelerate warming, potentially offsetting the effects of arctic greening. Long term effects of wildfire on tundra were assessed and incorporated into a model simulating recovery from fire and the loss of ~66 Gg of nitrogen. Tundra darkening caused by fire likely increases thermokarst activity, increasing long term nutrient delivery to streams, and enhancing the biogeochemical connectivity between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The magnitude of this effect is comparable to the ARC LTER fertilization experiments on the Kuparuk River.