Modelling carbon emissions in Calluna vulgaris–dominated ecosystems when prescribed burning and wildfires interact
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A present challenge in fire ecology is to optimize management techniques so that ecological services are maximized and C emissions minimized. Here, we modeled the effects of different prescribed-burning rotation intervals and wildfires on carbon emissions (present and future) in British moorlands. Biomass-accumulation curves from four Calluna-dominated ecosystems along a north-south gradient in Great Britain were calculated and used within a matrix-model based on Markov Chains to calculate above-ground biomass-loads and annual C emissions under different prescribed-burning rotation intervals. Additionally, we assessed the interaction of these parameters with a decreasing wildfire return intervals. We observed that litter accumulation patterns varied between sites. Northern sites (colder and wetter) accumulated lower amounts of litter with time than southern sites (hotter and drier). The accumulation patterns of the living vegetation dominated by Calluna were determined by site-specific conditions. The optimal prescribed-burning rotation interval for minimizing annual carbon emissions also differed between sites: the optimal rotation interval for northern sites was between 30 and 50 years, whereas for southern sites a hump-backed relationship was found with the optimal interval either between 8 to 10 years or between 30 to 50 years. Increasing wildfire frequency interacted with prescribed-burning rotation intervals by both increasing C emissions and modifying the optimum prescribed-burning interval for minimum C emission. This highlights the importance of studying site-specific biomass accumulation patterns with respect to environmental conditions for identifying suitable fire-rotation intervals to minimize C emissions.
Is part ofPLoS ONE, 2016, vol. 11, núm. 11, p. 1-19
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