Large-scale Fire and Wind in Boreal Forests of Northern Minnesota

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota and adjacent Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, contain over a million acres of southern boreal forest that was never logged. These forests bear the imprint of large-scales fires that have been mapped for the last 400 years. Superimposed on this background are the recent "Big blowdown" of 1999, which leveled hundreds of thousands of acres of forests. Subsequently some of the blown down forest has burned in wildfires (the 32,000 acre Cavity Lake Fire of 2006 and 72,000 acre Ham Lake Fire of 2007), and prescribed fires. This provides an unparalleled landscape-scale laboratory for studying the response of forests to different types and combinations of disturbances.

Selected publications

Carlson, D.J., P.B. Reich, and L.E. Frelich. 2011. Fine-scale heterogeneity in overstory composition contributes to heterogeneity of wildfire severity in southern boreal forest. Journal of Forest Research 16:203-214. [doi: 10.1007/s10310-011-0251-z]

Rich, R.L., L.E. Frelich, and P.B. Reich. 2007. Wind-throw mortality in the southern boreal forest: effects of species, diameter and stand age. Journal of Ecology 95:1261-1273.

Weyenberg, S.A, L.E. Frelich, and P.B. Reich. 2004. Logging versus fire: how does disturbance type influence the abundance of eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) regeneration? Silva Fennica 38:179-194.

Reich, P.B., P. Bakken, D.Carlson, L.E. Frelich, S.K. Friedman, and D. Grigal. 2001. Influence of logging and fire on boreal forest biodiversity and productivity. Ecology 82: 2731-2748.

Frelich, L.E., and P.B. Reich. 1995. Spatial patterns and succession in a Minnesota southern-boreal forest. Ecological Monographs 65:325-346.

Boreal jack pine forest after blowdown and severe fire.

Boreal jack pine forest after blowdown and severe fire. Photo by Dave Hansen, University of Minnesota.

Birch-aspen forest leveled by the big blowdown of 1999.

Birch-aspen forest leveled by the big blowdown of 1999. Photo: Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Roy Rich and Nick Fisichelli examine the landscape one year after the Cavity Lake burn of 2006.

Roy Rich and Nick Fisichelli examine the landscape one year after the Cavity Lake burn of 2006. Photo: Dave Hansen, University of Minnesota.

Canoeists portaging through downed trees.

Canoeists portaging through downed trees. Photo: USDA Forest Service.