Fuel accumulation and fire patterns


Sylvie Gauthier: My name is Sylvie Gauthier. I’m a researcher in forest ecology and fires at the Laurentian Forestry Centre of the Canadian Forest Service.

Here on the North Shore, I began doing work on fire history about ten years ago. It was found that there were more old-growth forests than was initially thought. What I do specifically in the context of the permanent plots that have been established here is look at how the combustible material on the soil accumulates over time in old-growth forests and in forests that have been disturbed by the spruce budworm.

Of specific interest to me is how combustible material in which the fires are ignited does or does not accumulate in old-growth forests, and we also want to see a budworm epidemic that is beginning in the territory, we want to try to see and understand what impact that epidemic has on the risks of future fires through the accumulation of combustible material.

What we see on the North Shore is that fires are not the major disturbance, fires are relatively rare. However, in a context of climate change, it is possible that the fire risk will increase, which is what we are trying to better predict.

The results of our work are used to better understand how the forest ecosystem operates. Then, that information is used to modify our management practices, to improve the practices on the basis of the ecosystem in which we are located and in terms of fire specifically. We are trying to prevent forest fires or to react better when fires occur.