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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-174
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-174
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 12 Jun 2020

Submitted as: research article | 12 Jun 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Fire and vegetation dynamics in North-West Siberia during the last 60 years based on high-resolution remote sensing

Oleg Sizov1,, Ekaterina Ezhova2,, Petr Tsymbarovich3, Andrey Soromotin4, Nikolay Prihod'ko4, Tuukka Petäjä2,4, Sergej Zilitinkevich2,5, Markku Kulmala2,4, Jaana Bäck6, and Kajar Köster6 Oleg Sizov et al.
  • 1Institute of Oil and Gas Problems Russian Academy of Science, Moscow, Russia
  • 2Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR)/Physics, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • 3Institute of Geography Russian Academy of Science, Moscow, Russia
  • 4Tyumen’ State University, Tyumen’, Russia
  • 5Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • 6Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR)/Forest Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract. Rapidly warming Arctic undergoes transitions that can influence global carbon balance. One of the key processes is the shift towards plant species with higher biomass underlining a stronger carbon sink. The shift is predicted by the models based on abiotic climatic factors but it is not always confirmed with observations. Here we use high-resolution remote sensing to study the process of transition of tundra into forest on the 20 000 km2 area in North-West Siberia. Overall, 40 % of the study area was burned during 60-yr period. Three quarters of the burned areas were dry tundra. Ca 10 % of the study area experienced 2–3 fires with an interval of 15–60 years, suggesting a shorter fire return interval than that reported earlier for the northern areas of Central Siberia (130–350 years). Based on our results, the shift in vegetation (within the 60-years period) occurred in 40–85 % of the territories that experienced fires, suggesting a strong role of disturbances for the tree advance. All fire-affected territories were flat, therefore no effect of topography was detected. Oppositely, in the undisturbed areas, tundra-forest transition was observed only in 6–15 % of the territories, characterized by a steeper topographic slope. Our results show that the fires often originated near the centers of anthropogenic activity, which is continuously increasing due to the economic importance of the region. This might explain larger frequency of major fires in the northern territories of West Siberia compared to Central Siberia.

Oleg Sizov et al.

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Short summary
Fires in Siberia become increasingly widespread. In changing climate, tundra fires might trigger transition to woodlands and forests, decreasing areas for reindeer pasture and increasing risk of tick-borne diseases. We studied wildfire dynamics and tundra-forest transition within 60 years in North-West Siberia near the Arctic Circle. We analyzed satellite data and ground-based observations, and found that wildfires trigger transition in 40–80 % of dry tundra, compared to 5–15 % without fires.
Fires in Siberia become increasingly widespread. In changing climate, tundra fires might trigger...
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