Scientific Colloquium
March 30, 2016, 3:30 p.m., Building 3 Auditorium

"Fires in the Wild West: Forest Carbon, Black Carbon and Post-fire Nutrient Dynamics"

The size and severity of wildfires is expected to continue to increase in many forests around the globe. Because a major portion of terrestrial ecosystem carbon is stored in forest ecosystems, a shift in fire regimes has potential for major impact to the global carbon cycle. Some portion of carbon is stabilized during fires as chemically aromatic “black carbon” which has a long residence time in the environment and can influence soil physical, chemical and biological properties in ways that are likely to affect post-fire forest recovery. However, current understanding of the amount and distribution of black carbon in burned forests remains limited. I will summarize the state of knowledge about wildfire-produced black carbon, its stability in the environment, and its contribution to post-fire forest C pools and soil ecosystem properties. I will present results from my research in contrasting temperate coniferous forest types in the continental United States, and will discuss current information needs and challenges in understanding forest and soil ecosystem response to fire.

About the Speaker:

Jessica Miesel is an Assistant Professor in Forestry at Michigan State University, where her research in fire ecology and soil biogeochemistry focuses on the role of pyrogenic carbon in forest soil ecosystem processes. She is an elected member of Board of Directors for the Association for Fire Ecology, and serves as a co-PI on the Lake States Fire Science Consortium, which works to facilitate fire science information exchange between the fire research and management communities of the Lake States region.

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