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Researchers propose solutions to make the forest more resilient | Forest fires 2023

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Forest fires in Quebec. Mistissini sector, in Nord-du-Québec.(archives)

  • Annie-Claude Brisson (View profile)Annie-Claude Brisson

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Researchers were interested in possible solutions to improve the fight against forest fires, and thus avoid reliving the consequences of the last historic season. Establishing a reserve, reviewing the cuts and varying the species planted are among the avenues for reflection.

The twenty academics reflected on the options to make the forest more resilient to the consequences of climate change.

This is a great and beautiful question. It’s about accepting the vulnerability of forests. This year, people saw what fires could do to the forestry sector, said professor of ecology and forest management at UQAC, Yan Boucher, in an interview with Place publique.

Experts recommend in particular the establishment of a precautionary reserve. They suggest a range from 5% to 20%. The percentage would vary depending on the sector. It would depend on the different regions of Quebec as well as the frequency of forest fires observed.

For example, western Quebec would face a much higher reserve percentage while the east of the province will be entitled to a smaller reserve. Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, which is considered an intermediate region in terms of fire regimes, would find itself somewhere in between.

Wildfires 2023

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Wildfires 2023

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This makes it possible to maintain allocation volumes that are constant over time. We can protect ourselves, if we want, from events like 2023 which led to reduced possibilities following the areas that burned. We are able to compensate for events like this without reducing the average level of harvest that can be made annually in our forests, explains Yan Boucher.

The professor at UQAC is aware that this is a complex measure. Yan Boucher believes that reserves must be managed before disasters occur. He believes that the chief forester will look into this possible solution in the coming months.

This is a precautionary measure. It is certain that there will be challenges and that it will not be easy to integrate into sectors where fires were not usually that frequent. With climate change, the frequency of fires is expected to increase sharply, he says.

Among other ideas formulated by the group of experts, there is the proposal to leave more seed trees when cutting in the boreal forest, particularly in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean.

Usually, less than 5% of seed trees are left in these forests. They contain pots that have viable seeds, seeds that will be used when the fire passes. They will be able to regenerate the flowerbed. These seed trees will be able to support forest regeneration if ever a fire occurs a few decades after logging, explains the man who is also co-director of the Boreal Research Center.

He adds that forests regenerate after 50 years.

Researchers also suggest in their work varying the species of trees in some forests. Yan Boucher affirms that the proportion of jack pine could be increased in plantations found in areas more affected by forest fires.

Jack pine is a species that is very well adapted to fire. It will regenerate very easily following the passage of fire. Compared to black spruce, jack pine regenerates at a younger age, he explains.

Yan Boucher specifies that jack pine will be able to produce seeds between 10 and 15 years while you have to wait 50 years for black spruce.

The lack of snow observed this winter is already worrying several stakeholders.

The weaker the snow cover and the faster it recedes, the more likely we are to have fires and to extend the fire season. It is one element among others. If we don't have any precipitation after the snow cover melts, it will probably be quite problematic considering that the fuel will dry out. There will also remain the presence of an ignition source, indicates the specialist.

Yan Boucher recalls the storms without precipitation observed last June, at the beginning of historic wildfire season.

That brings concerns with what's coming this summer, he confirms.

According to information from Catherine Doucet

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