EXPLORING LANDSCAPE ECOSYSTEMS WITH SATELLITES:
BOREAL WILDLAND FIRE HISTORY:
DUCK MOUNTAINS, MANITOBA
An intresting study carried ou by Jacques Tardiff at the Centre for Forest interdisciplinary Research (C-FIR), University of Winnipeg provides a unique 300 year perspective of fire history in the Duck Mountain Provincial Forest (DMPF), Manitoba. The results are reported in Project Report 2003-2004 - Fire history in the Duck Mountain Provincial Forest published in 2004 as part of the Sustainable Forest Management Network Reserach projects. Link:
Some Key Results of this Study:
This study presents a
300-year fire history reconstruction for the Duck Mountain Provincial
Forest (DMPF) located in the boreal plains of western Manitoba.
Results indicated that the fire cycle in the DMPF has dramatically changed since
the early 1700. In the pre-settlement period (1700-1880), which corresponded
to the late portion of the Little Ice Age, the fire cycle may have been
around 55-years with, on average, up to 1.8% of the area burning each year.
Throughout that period, the authors speculated that large, infrequent fires have
occurred in conjunction with prolonged droughts.
Such an extreme drought was observed from 1885 to 1895 and coincided with about
83% of the DMPF burning, i.e., an area equal to 283,580 ha.
During settlement, numerous small fires were observed at the periphery of the
DMPF and were speculated to origin from land clearing. Despite these frequent
fires, the length of the fire cycle has increased to about 200 years. On
average, about 0.5% of the landscape was burning every year.
Since the last major fire to occur in 1961 the length of the fire cycle has been
estimated to be over 15,000 years.
The year 1961 coincided with the most severe drought in the 20th century for
that region of Manitoba. At no other time in the 300-year record was there
period of 40-years or so with so little area burned
The impact of fire suppression needs to be further investigated but is speculated
to play a major role in the lengthening of the fire cycle. The current
time-since-fire distribution and age structure observed in the landscape
are probably unprecedented. The imprint of the late 19th century fires
coupled with settlement and fire suppression have been the dominant forces
structuring the ecological processes of today..
Figure 1. Time-since-last-fire map for the Duck Mountain Provincial Forest as of 2002
Time-since-last-fire map for the Duck Mountain Provincial Forest as of 2002 and including data obtained from Manitoba Conservation's archives. One can observe the numerous small fires occurring at the perimeter of the DMPF in the early 20th century and the area burned in 1961 in light brown at the centre of the map.
Figure 2 Time-since–last-fire map for the Duck Mountain Provincial Forest as if one was standing in the early 1900.
Time-since–last-fire map for the Duck Mountain Provincial Forest as if one was
standing in the early 1900, immediately after the catastrophic
the 1885-1895 decade. The
area burned in both 1880 and 1890 classes totalized 83% of the DPPF.
Figure 3 Time-since-last-fire map for the Duck Mountain Provincial Forest as if one was standing in the early 1880.
Time-since-last-fire map for the Duck Mountain Provincial Forest as if one was
in the early 1880, i.e. before the catastrophic burns of the 1885-1895 decade. Large-scale fires may
have occurred throughout the period covered as indicated by the colour scale..
The Google Earth image below provides a somewhat broader overview of the Duck Mountain Area, which is essentially a higher plateau surrounded by an agriculturally dominated areas. Because of plateau, the Duck Mountains show a more typical boreal ecosystem than the surrounding areas. Recnet logging activities can be seen around D. The area near B is one of the oldest fire history sites (see purple- 1720 on figure 1). The area around A is the last prominent burn (1960). The Wisconsin ice sheet was responsible shaping the topography of plateau and leaving a ground and dead ice moraine. Glacial lake Agassiz, during shaped the slopes of the plateau and left numerous beachlines during its retreat ( see around C)
This NASA WorldWind satellite image composite shows the area near A,B,C for the time period around 2000. The pink areas on the plateau are recent logging areas, in the lowlands agricultural crops.