Wildfire is the main disturbance in boreal forests and is critical for boreal forest renewal and functioning. However, climate warming and drying have led to an intensification of wildfire disturbance in boreal forests, which includes increased frequency and severity of wildfire and increasing annual area burned. More extreme wildfire activity has the potential to profoundly alter forest regeneration processes, potentially leading to changes in landcover and associated ecosystem functioning. In 2017, we initiated a broad synthesis of post-fire regeneration outcomes. This was recently published and includes data from more than 1500 boreal forest stands across North America. Briefly, this synthesis allowed us to use existing data from fires that burned between 1989 and 2014 to ask the following questions: 1) How often does the pre-fire dominant species show decreased resilience (i.e., ecological state change) to recent fires in boreal North America? 2) Is the magnitude and direction of change consistent among regions? 3) Are there consistent drivers across boreal North America that promote postfire ecological state change?
This initial synthesis made use of existing field datasets that were not coordinated for this purpose, which created a range of challenges relating to data standardization, inclusion of key variables, and the geographic extent of the study. In this talk, we will share this experience and our recommendations for similar synthetic efforts. Further, we will outline our plans to expand the scope of these efforts to include data from Eurasian boreal forests. The goal of this next step will be to evaluate global regeneration patterns through a lens of climate change and compound disturbance impacts. Further, we plan to coordinate a targeted seedling trait data collection effort that will enhance our understanding of the functional implications of these changes in post-fire regeneration outcomes. This presentation is on behalf of the Boreal Post-fire Regeneration Synthesis Team.