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The influences of fuel moisture and diameter on pyrogenic carbon production in fine woody debris from three boreal tree species under simulated surface fire conditions.

  • Author / Creator
    Koroscil, Stephanie
  • Wildland fires burn millions of hectares annually, releasing a significant amount of carbon into the atmosphere. Wildland fires also produce pyrogenic carbon – thermally-altered biomass that is highly resistant to decay – which accumulates in fire-affected ecosystems over time. Large wildfires, common in the boreal forest, burn for extended periods and across wide areas; tree species, fuel loading, and fuel moisture are variable between and within these expansive wildfires. Identifying how the physical characteristics of forest fuels relate to the production of pyrogenic carbon is important to understanding how pyrogenic carbon production varies among wildfires. This thesis explores how tree species, stick-diameter, and fuel moisture content affect pyrogenic carbon production in fine woody debris through a laboratory burn study. In this experimental study, fine woody debris from 3 boreal tree species was separated into 5 stick-diameter size classes, conditioned to 3 fuel moisture contents, and burned under simulated surface fire conditions. The overall mean pyrogenic carbon production rate was 5.1% relative to pre-burn sample weight. Mean pyrogenic carbon production rates ranged from 3.9-7.9% among species, 1.3-9.4% among stick-diameter size classes, and 4.5-5.8% among fuel moisture contents. Trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) produced significantly more pyrogenic carbon than black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.); BSP) and jack pine (Pinus banskiana Lamb.); the mean pyrogenic carbon production rate for trembling aspen was 7.1%, while black spruce and jack pine had rates of 3.9% and 4.3% respectively. Smaller stick-diameters produced significantly more pyrogenic carbon than larger stick-diameters per unit mass; the mean pyrogenic carbon production rate ranged from 7.6-9.4% for 0-1cm diameter sticks, from 3.1-4.2% for 1.1-5cm diameter sticks, and was 1.3% for 5.1-7cm diameter sticks. Samples with 8% fuel moisture content produced significantly more pyrogenic carbon than those with 18% and 28% fuel moisture content; the mean pyrogenic carbon production rate was 5.8% for samples at 8% fuel moisture content, and ranged from 4.5-5.0 % for the two higher fuel moistures. The interaction between stick-diameter and fuel moisture content was also significant, with 5.1-7cm diameter sticks at 18% and 28% moisture content producing significantly less pyrogenic carbon than other samples. This research demonstrates variability in pyrogenic carbon production rates among individual forest stand components, highlighting a need to better understand the relationship between the physical characteristics of a forest and pyrogenic carbon production. With the national and global interest in the concept of carbon budgets, it becomes increasingly relevant in the field of wildland fire management to better understand the recalcitrant residues of wildland fire.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2020
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-3jfq-c186
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.