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Silva Fennica 1926-1997
Acta Forestalia Fennica

Articles by Tuomo Wallenius

Category: Research article

article id 558, category Research article
Tuomo Wallenius. (2002). Forest age distribution and traces of past fires in a natural boreal landscape dominated by Picea abies. Silva Fennica vol. 36 no. 1 article id 558.
Keywords: boreal forest; disturbance dynamics; fire refugia; tree age
Abstract | View details | Full text in PDF | Author Info
Forest age distribution and occurrence of traces of past fires was studied in a natural Picea abies -dominated landscape in the Onega peninsula in north-west Russia. Forest age (maximum tree age) was determined and charcoal and fire scars were searched for in 43 randomly located study plots. In 70% of the study plots (30/43) trees older than 200 years existed. The largest 50-year age class consisted of plots with 251–300 year old forests. Traces of fires were found in all types of study plots, in forests on mineral soil as well as on peatlands. However, fire has been a rare disturbance factor, as traces of fires could not be found in 35% of the study plots (15/43). Estimated from the forest age class distribution, the fire rotation time for the whole area has been at least 300 years, but possibly considerably longer. This fire rotation time is much longer than fire history studies (largely based on examination of fire scars) commonly have reported for the average time between successive fires in Fennoscandia and Northwest Russia. The results suggest that the often stated generalisations about the importance and natural frequency of fire disturbance in boreal forests do not apply in landscapes dominated by Picea abies.
  • Wallenius, Department of Ecology and Systematics, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 56, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland E-mail: (email)
article id 557, category Research article
Tuomo Wallenius, Timo Kuuluvainen, Raimo Heikkilä, Tapio Lindholm. (2002). Spatial tree age structure and fire history in two old-growth forests in eastern Fennoscandia. Silva Fennica vol. 36 no. 1 article id 557.
Keywords: Pinus sylvestris; Picea abies; disturbance dynamics; spatial autocorrelation; spatial pattern
Abstract | View details | Full text in PDF | Author Info
Two near natural old-growth forests, one dominated by Picea abies and the other by Pinus sylvestris, were studied for their fire history, and spatial patterns of trees and tree ages. The spatial tree age structure and the disturbance history of the forests were examined by drawing age class maps based on mapped and aged trees and by dating fires based on fire scars, and by using spatial analyses at tree scale. The tree age structures of the Picea and Pinus dominated forests were different, mainly due to differences in fire history and sensitivity of the dominant tree species to fire. Fire histories and tree age structures of both sites have probably been affected by human in the ancient past. However, in the Picea dominated site, the fires had been severe, killing most of the trees, whereas in the Pinus dominated site the severity of fires had been more variable, leaving some Pinus and even Picea trees alive. In the Pinus dominated site, the tree age distribution was multimodal, consisting of two Pinus cohorts, which were established after fires and a later Picea regeneration. The Picea dominated site was composed of four patches of different disturbance history. In the oldest patch, the tree age distribution was unimodal, with no distinct cohorts, while a single cohort that regenerated after severe fire disturbances dominated the three other patches. In both sites the overall spatial patterns of living and dead trees were random and the proportion of spatially autocorrelated variance of tree age was low. This means that trees of different age grew more or less mixed in the forest without forming spatially distinct regeneration patches, even in the oldest patch of Picea dominated Liimatanvaara, well over 200 years after a fire. The results show that detail knowledge of disturbance history is essential for understanding the development of tree age structures and their spatial patterns.
  • Wallenius, Department of Ecology and Systematics, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 65, FIN-00014, Helsinki, Finland E-mail: (email)
  • Kuuluvainen, Department of Forest Ecology, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 27, FIN-00014, Helsinki, Finland E-mail:
  • Heikkilä, Research Centre of Friendship Park, Tönölä, FIN-88900 Kuhmo, Finland E-mail:
  • Lindholm, Finnish Environment Institute, Nature and Land Use Division, P.O. Box 140, FIN-00251 Helsinki, Finland E-mail:

Category: Review article

article id 36, category Review article
Tuomo Wallenius. (2011). Major decline in fires in coniferous forests – reconstructing the phenomenon and seeking for the cause. Silva Fennica vol. 45 no. 1 article id 36.
Keywords: human influence; fire-history; fire suppression; forest dynamics; Pinus
Abstract | View details | Full text in PDF | Author Info
Steep decline in forest fires about a century ago occurred in coniferous forests over large areas in North America and Fennoscandia. This poorly understood phenomenon has been explained by different factors in different regions. The objective of this study is to evaluate the validity of the four most commonly suggested causes of the decrease in forest fires: fire fighting, over-grazing, climate change and human influence. I compiled the available dendrochronological data and estimated the annually burned proportions of Pinus-dominated forests in four subcontinental regions during the past 500 years. These data were compared to the development of fire suppression, grazing pressure, climate and human livelihoods. The annually burned proportions declined over 90% in all studied regions. In three out of the four regions fires decreased decades before fire suppression began. Available drought data are annually well correlated with fires but could not explain the decrease of the level in annually burned areas. A rapid increase in the number of livestock occurred at the same time with the decrease in fires in the Western US but not in Fennoscandia. Hence, fire suppression in Central Fennoscandia and over-grazing in the Western US may have locally contributed to the reduction of burned areas. More general explanation is offered by human influence hypothesis: the majority of the past forest fires were probably caused by humans and the decrease in the annually burned areas was because of a decrease in human caused fires. This is in accordance with the old written records and forest fire statistics. The decrease in annually burned areas, both in Fennoscandia and the United States coincides with an economic and cultural transition from traditional livelihoods that are associated with high fire use to modern agriculture and forestry.
  • Wallenius, Finnish Forest Research Institute, Vantaa Research Unit, Vantaa, Finland E-mail: (email)

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