IAB Research Project Description

Effects of and Recovery From a Major Regional Disturbance in an Arctic Landscape, the Anaktuvuk River Fire of 2007

Aerial image of the Anaktuvuk River fire, North Slope, Alaska on August 16, 2007. Credit: Michael D. Flemin/Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies

Any and all uses of these images must include photographer credit.

This is an investigation of the initial impacts and recovery of the landscape affected by the Anaktuvuk River fire that occurred on the North Slope of Alaska in July-September 2007. The principal investigators will begin documenting recovery of the landscape including terrestrial and aquatic components.

The Anaktuvuk River fire burned more than 350 square miles (>90,000 ha) of North Slope tundra between late July and late September, with most of the burning at the end of September when air temperatures were near or below freezing and most plant growth had ceased. This would be a very large fire in any year, and it was the largest in Alaska in 2007, but this fire was on the tundra where small fires occasionally burn but large ones are quite rare. The fire was large enough that it appears to include several complete 1st-3rd order watersheds. The area burned in this one fire was greater than the total area burned by all known fires on the North Slope since 1950. Most of this land is in the foothills region, including diverse tundra vegetation, streams, lakes, and wetlands at elevations of 200-600 m.

The research team, led by Gus Shaver of the Marine Biological Laboratory, began surveying and vegetation sampling in early May 2008 and will continue through the summer.

Products of the research will include a unique data set on distribution, intensity, and patchiness of the burn, with documentation of initial impacts on element cycles and terrestrial and aquatic communities. Where possible with available instrumentation, impacts on surface energy balance and CO2 exchange will also be documented.

Project Funding

National Science Foundation
15 Jan 2008 – 31 Dec 2008
IAB Project #112

Media Contact

Marie Thoms
Communications/Web Manager
Institute of Arctic Biology
302A Irving I
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000
email: methoms@alaska.edu
phone: 907.474.7412