Fire history of white and Lutz spruce forests on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, over the last two millennia as determined from soil charcoal

Edward E. Berg, R. Scott Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations


The presence of over 429,000 ha of forest with spruce (Picea spp.) recently killed by spruce beetles (Dendroctonus rufipennis) on the Kenai Peninsula has raised the specter of catastrophic wildfire. Dendrochronological evidence indicated that spruce beetle outbreaks occurred on average every 50 years in these forests. We used 121 radiocarbon-dated soil charcoal samples collected from throw mounds of recently blown over trees to reconstruct the regional fire history for the last ca. 2500 years and found no relation between fire activity and past spruce beetle outbreaks. Soil charcoal data suggest that upland forests of white (Picea glauca) and Lutz (Picea x lutzii) spruce have not on average burned for 600 years (time-since-fire range 90 to ∼1500 years, at 22 sites) and that the mean fire interval was 400-600 years. It would thus appear that 10 or more spruce beetle outbreaks can occur for every cycle of fire in these forests. We caution, however, that a trend of warmer summers coupled with an increasing human population and associated sources of ignitions may create a greater fire risk in all fuel types than was present during the time period covered by our study. We suggest that forest management focus on creating fuel breaks between valued human infrastructure and all types of forest fuels, both green and dead. Crown

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-283
Number of pages9
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number3 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Jun 1 2006



  • Alaska
  • Dendroctonus rufipennis
  • Fire history
  • Kenai Peninsula
  • Picea glauca
  • Picea x lutzii
  • Soil charcoal
  • Spruce beetle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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