The Relationship Between Prescribed Fire Management and Carbon Storage in the Missouri Ozarks

Date Written: 
Fri, 04/30/2010

Introduction: A common concern among forest managers today is how best to manage forests using prescribed fires while simultaneously minimizing carbon emissions. In light of increased public awareness concerning climate change, the need to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere is a top priority around the world. Therefore, research into the most optimal forest management practices that reduce carbon emissions have been conducted in various regions and contiguous forested tracts. Further, models of carbon emissions produced by various forest management practices have been developed to shed light on those that are the most suitable for sustainable management of a forest ecosystem while minimizing the release of carbon.

In a forest ecosystem, carbon is stored in live and dead biomass as well as in the root system and soil components. These components can be either a source or a sink of carbon due to annual exchanges between these components (Li 2006). Fire is a necessary requirement for promoting carbon sequestration in our forests and the magnitude of impact that fire events have on carbon storage is related to fire characteristics such as fire behavior (e.g., intensity), frequency, seasonality, topography, and combustion efficiency (e.g., how much was burned and how well did it burn) (Houghton 1996, Pyne et al. 1996). The objective of this paper was to review current literature addressing carbon levels in the various forest components and the impact of fire on carbon storage in each of these components.

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