Current issue: 53(2)
Under compilation: 53(3)
Fire as disturbance of forests has an important ecological and economical role in boreal and hemiboreal forests. The occurrence of forest fires is both climatically and anthropogenically determined and shifts in fire regimes are expected due to climate change. Although fire histories have been well documented in boreal regions, there is still insufficient information about fire occurrence in the Baltic States. In this study, spatio-temporal patterns and climatic drivers of forest fires were assessed by means of spatial and time-series analysis. The efficiency of Canadian Fire Weather (FWI) indices as indicators for fire activity was tested. The study was based on data from the literature, archives, and the Latvian State Forest service database. During the period 1922–2014, the occurrence and area affected by forest fires has decreased although the total area of forest land has nearly doubled, suggesting improvement of the fire suppression system as well as changes in socioeconomic situation. The geographical distribution of forest fires revealed two pronounced clusters near the largest cities of Riga and Daugavpils, suggesting dominance of human causes of ignitions. The occurrence of fires was mainly influenced by drought. FWI appeared to be efficient in predicting the fire occurrence: 23–34% of fires occurred on days with a high or extremely high fire danger class, which overall had a relative occurrence of only 4.3–4.6%. During the 20th century, the peak of fire activity shifted from May to April, probably due to global warming and socioeconomic reasons. The results of this study are relevant for forest hazard mitigation and development of fire activity prediction system in Latvia.
In managed European hemiboreal forests, windstorms have a notable ecological and socio-economic impact. In this study, stand properties affecting windstorm damage occurrence at the stand-level were assessed using a Generalized Linear Mixed model. After 2005 windstorm, 5959 stands dominated by birch (Betula spp.), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) and Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.), with mean height > 10 m were inventoried. Windstorm damage was positively associated with spruce and pine-dominated stands, increasing mean height, fresh forest edges, decreasing time since the last thinning and stronger wind gusts. Tree species composition – mixed or monodominant – was not statistically significant in the model; while, the admixture of spruce in the canopy layer was positively associated with higher windstorm damage. Stands on peat soils were more damaged than stands on mineral soils. Birch stands were more damaged than pine stands. This information could be used in forest management planning, selection of silvicultural treatments to increase forest resilience to natural disturbances.
The height growth of trees influences the productivity of stands and the competitiveness of species, shaping the range of their distribution. Dominant height growth was assessed for European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.), growing outside of its natural distribution range in the western part of Latvia. In 10 neighbouring experimental stands, 20 dominant trees were felled for stem analysis. Height growth was modelled using the generalised algebraic difference approach, applying several non-linear equations and mixed procedures. The Chapman-Richards and Sloboda models showed the best fit to the data. Height growth of the second generation (younger) trees exceeded that of the first generation, and followed curve for a higher site index, suggesting sufficient adaptation and improving conditions. Height growth of the studied beech exceeded predictions for beech in southern Sweden, which is considered to be the northern limit of the species range, yet the growth pattern differed. In Latvia, slower height growth was estimated for site indices < 32 m (in 100 years) during the first 60 years, yet larger maximal height was predicted, suggesting a longer establishment period. Nevertheless, the improving height growth indicated increasing potential for the application of the species in commercial forestry, and an expansion of the species within the region even during the 21th century.
Forest fire is one of the natural disturbances, which have important ecological and socioeconomical effect. Although fire activity is driven by weather conditions, during past two centuries forest fires have been strongly anthropogenically controlled. In this study, teleconnection between sea surface temperature (SST) in the Atlantic, which influences climate in Europe, and forest fire activity in Latvia and Estonia was assessed using “Climate explorer” web-tool. Factors affecting number and area of forest fires in Latvia and Estonia differed, suggesting regional specifics. In Estonia, the number of fires correlated with the SST in the North Atlantic in spring and summer, which affects the inflow of cool and dry air masses from the Arctic, hence the aridity and burnability. The area of fires in Estonia and in Latvia was associated with increased SST in Baltic Sea and near the European coast in summer, which likely were consequences of occurrence of warm high-pressure systems in summer, causing hot and dry conditions. Nevertheless, the observed teleconnections could be used to predict activity of forest fires in Latvia and Estonia.