Drivers and impacts of tundra and boreal fires through time

The prevalence of fires in the high northern latitudes has increased in recent years, with higher frequency and intensity of fires in the boreal zone and occurrence of catastrophic fires in the tundra. Both are of concern because they impinge on peatlands, potentially representing a significant destruction of carbon reserves currently locked up in peat. Thus, feedbacks from peatland burning could exacerbate current global warming. The recent geological record provides examples of warmer intervals in the high northern latitudes, and these can be used to examine how fire regimes in the tundra and boreal zones have changed in response to climate changes and how these changes have in turn influenced climate. The project will capitalize on palaeodata on peatland extent and fire dynamics from field studies in Canada, as well as existing global databases on peat formation and charcoal-based reconstructions of fire regimes to examine the climatic drivers of high latitude fires and their impacts. The project involves data analysis and modelling components.