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Impact of fire on long-term vegetation dynamics of ombrotrophic peatlands in northwestern Québec, Canada

  • Gabriel Magnan (a1), Martin Lavoie (a1) and Serge Payette (a2)
Abstract

A 7000-year record of local fire history was reconstructed from three ombrotrophic peatlands in the James Bay lowlands (northwestern Québec, Canada) using a high-resolution analysis of macroscopic charcoal (long axis≥0.5 mm). The impact of fire on vegetation changes was evaluated using detailed analysis of plant macrofossils. Compared to upland boreal forest, fire incidence in these Sphagnum-dominated bogs is rather low. Past fire occurrence seems to have been controlled primarily by internal processes associated with local hydroseral succession. Size of the peatland basin and distance from the well-drained forest soils also appear to be factors controlling fire occurrence. The impact of peatland fires on long-term vegetation succession appears negligible except in a forested bog, where it initiated the replacement of Sphagnum by mosses. In some circumstances, fire caused marked changes in the bryophyte assemblages over many decades. However, ombrotrophic peatland vegetation is generally resilient to surface fire.

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Corresponding author
*Corresponding author at: GEOTOP, Université du Québec á Montréal, C.P. 8888, Succursale Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3C 3P8. Fax: + 1 514 987 3635. E-mail addresses: magnangabriel@gmail.com (G. Magnan), martin.lavoie@cen.ulaval.ca (M. Lavoie), serge.payette@bio.ulaval.ca (S. Payette).
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