Aspen Bibliography


Interactions Among Wildlife, Forest Type and Landscape Position are Key Determinants of Boreal Forest Carbon Stocks

Document Type


Author ORCID Identifier

Sean M. P. Cahoon

Patrick F. Sullivan

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of Ecology


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

First Page


Last Page


Publication Date



  1. Boreal forest soils contain large stocks of soil carbon (C) that may be sensitive to changes in climate and disturbance. Destablization of boreal forest soil C through changes in C inputs, belowground C pools and/or wildfire could feedback to accelerate rising atmospheric CO2 concentration. Additionally, increasing frequency of severe fires may be changing the dominant forest types and reshaping aboveground C stocks.
  2. Although controls on ecosystem C pools have received considerable attention, many studies have been limited to locations near the road system, leading to uncertainty in current and future C stocks across boreal Alaska. Here, we leveraged 545 randomly selected and spatially balanced Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) plots across ~13.5 million hectares in interior Alaska to examine the factors governing soil and live tree C pools.
  3. Forest type mediated the effects of mean summer air temperature and the probability of near-surface permafrost on soil C. Meanwhile, forest type, stand age and aspect were the primary drivers of live tree C. Overall, plots with a known history of wildfire during the past 70 years did not have significantly different soil C stocks than plots without a known history of fire, likely due to the historical predominance of low severity fires.
  4. Where wildfire likely initiated a transition to deciduous trees (19% of plots), live tree and soil C pools were reduced by 16% and 20%, respectively. Ecosystem C likely recovered over time, as maturing deciduous stands rapidly gained C in live trees. Deciduous stands without a known fire had comparatively very large live tree C stocks, suggesting a significant change in the distribution of ecosystem C following severe fire.
  5. Synthesis. Our results highlight the nuanced interactions among wildfire, landscape position and forest type that will play important roles in shaping future boreal ecosystem C stocks.