US Bureau of Land Management
Slow Recovery of Lichen on Burned Caribou Winter Range in Alaska Tundra: Potential Influences of Climate Warming and Other Disturbance Factors
Lichen regeneration timelines are needed to establish sound fire management guidelines for caribou (Rangifer tarandus) winter range. Paired burned and unburned permanent vegetative cover transects were established after 1981, 1977, and 1972 tundra fires in northwestern Alaska to document regrowth of tundra vegetation including caribou forage lichens in the wintering range of Alaska's largest caribou herd. Following fire, lichen had recovered very little compared to unburned transects (1% cover vs.15% cover) after 14 years. After 24 or 25 years, lichen cover in the burns remained low (3–4%), whether or not caribou were present during the recovery period. In addition, lichen cover on unburned transects at one study site had decreased from 14% to 6%. Shrub cover was higher on the burned plots than the unburned plots. Cover of cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum) initially increased following the fire and tussocks quickly became more vigorous than on paired unburned transects, remaining so for more than 14 years. Persistent changes in vegetation following fire likely reflect the cumulative impacts of seasonal caribou use and favorable growing conditions (warmer soils, longer growing season) for rooted vascular species during the recovery period. The actual recovery of forage lichens after fire on our study sites is slower than predictions based on ideal growth potential.
Jandt, R., K. Joly, C. R. Meyers, and C. Racine. 2008. Slow recovery of lichen on burned caribou winter range in Alaska tundra: potential influences of climate warming and other disturbance factors. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 40 (1): 89-95.
Data and Resources
End Date: 2007/03/01
Data Types: Report