Fire has played
a significant role in shaping the forest landscape of Alberta. Fire is a natural
process in terrestrial ecosystems, and has occurred since the glaciers
retreated. The boreal forest, in particular, is a "disturbance" forest
where fire is the predominant agent of change. Forest fires have burned more
than 75 percent of Alberta's forest area in the last 50 years. It should be
noted, however, that not every fire completely destroys the forest it burns
through, nor does every fire significantly damage the trees. Some fires burn
mostly the ground cover while others burn only the tops of trees. Still others
are low intensity fires that cause little damage. This is very typical of forest
fires in Albertathey are quite variable in the degree of disturbance.
about 1,000 forest fires occur each year in the province. From 19701996, this
resulted in an average disturbance of more than 1,400 square kilometres per year.
In 1981 alone, 13,600 square kilometres of forest burned as a result of 1,522
Department of the Environment. State of the Environment Report, Terrestrial Ecosystems. Edmonton: n.p., 2001. With permission from Alberta Environment.