Aims Forest fire is a major disturbance factor for forest ecosystems and an important pathway of decreasing vegetation- and soil-carbon storage. Scientifically and effectively measuring carbonaceous gases emission from forest fire is important in understanding the significance of forest fire in carbon balance and climate change. However, carbon emissions from forest fire remain unclear. Our objective was to estimate carbon emissions from forest fires from 1965 to 2010 in Daxing’an Mountains of Heilongjiang Province, China.
Methods We used a geographic information system (GIS) based modeling approach to generate emission estimates using a two-step procedure. First, we calculated total carbon released from forest fires in Daxing’an Mountains for selected years between 1965 and 2010 by merging and analyzing several measurement parameters. Second, we calculated amounts of four carbonaceous gases released during the burns, carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), and nonmethane hydrocarbon (NMHC), using several different experimentally derived emission factors. The origin of each of the inputs used in our models is based on a combination of analysis of forest fire statistics, forest resources inventory, field research and laboratory experiments.
Important findings Direct total carbon emissions from forest fires in Daxing’an Mountains during 1965–2010 are about 2.93 × 107 t, and mean annual carbon emissions are about 6.38 × 105 t per year, accounting for 5.64% of the direct total carbon emissions from forest fires in China. Carbon atmospheric emissions of CO2, CO, CH4 and NMHC from forest fires were 1.02 × 108 t, 9.41 × 106 t, 5.41 × 105 t and 2.11 × 105 t, respectively, and mean annual emissions of CO2, CO, CH4, and NMHC from forest fires were 2.22 × 106 t, 2.05 × 105 t, 1.18 × 104 t and 4.59 × 103 t, respectively, accounting for 5.46%, 7.56%, 10.54% and 4.06% of the amounts of four carbonaceous gases released from forest fires in China, respectively. Our results indicate that combustion efficiency of coniferous broad-leaved mixed forests is lower than other forest types, and burned area of coniferous broad-leaved mixed forests accounts for 21.23% of total burned area, but carbon emissions accounts for 7.81% of total carbon emissions.