Fire/Climate Interactions in the Boreal and Temperate Zones of North America and Russia

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As climate changes, models predict an increase in temperature, drought, and fire activity for large areas of North America and Eurasia. Changes in fire regime can be expected to affect vegetation structure and composition over large areas, as well as affecting local communities. And changes in the way fire burns have the potential to dramatically affect both fire emissions and ecosystem carbon storage. The boreal forest alone contains about a third of the global terrestrial carbon stocks, so changes in fire processes in these systems are of particular concern. Many of the feedbacks between fire and climate are poorly understood. These range from interactions of fire with carbon storage and soil processes to potential effects on air quality, atmospheric chemistry, and surface temperatures. Active management of fire-prone forests and burned areas can play a key role in increasing the resilience to changing climate, and in facilitating adaptation to future climates. Research carried out in Russia over the past several years is used to illustrate some of the complex interactions between fire and environment, as well as the potential for developing information and models that will help us to better estimate the changing effects of climate on fire regimes, and the feedbacks between changing fire regimes, atmospheric chemistry, and climate.