July 24, 2013
A 2,000-square-kilometer zone in the Yukon Flats of interior Alaska--one of the most flammable high-latitude regions of the world--has seen a dramatic increase in both the frequency and severity of fires in recent decades, according to research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Wildfire activity in this area is higher than at any other time in the past 10,000 years, the researchers report.
The research, funded by NSF's Division of Polar Programs, adds to the evidence that relatively frequent and powerful fires are converting the conifer-rich boreal forests of Alaska into deciduous woodlands.
Whether the shift to deciduous forests--which traditionally have been thought to be more fire-resistant--will overcome the fire-inducing effects of a warming climate remains to be seen.