Ecohydrologic Impacts of Wildfire on Peatlands
Principal Investigator: Waddington, J.M. (2)
Licence Number: 14590
Organization: School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University
Licensed Year(s): 2010 2009
Issued: Aug 12, 2009
Project Team: Dr. Mike Wotton (Researcher - fire behaviour modelling, Canadian Forest Service - Great Lakes Forestry Centre), Dr. Merritt Turetsky (Researcher - peatland ecology, Department of Integrative Biology - University of Guelph), Dr. Mike Flannigan (Researcher - fire weather and climate, Canadian Forest Service - Great Lakes Forestry Centre), Dr. Bill de Groot (Researcher - fire behaviour modelling, Canadian Forest Service - Great Lakes Forestry Centre), Dr. Brian Benscoter (Post-doctoral Researcher - peatland ecology, Department of Integrative Biology - University of Guelph)

Objective(s): To investigate how the amount of peat consumption during wildfire in bogs or fens (muskeg), is affected by weather, fire behaviour, and properties of the tree canopy.

Project Description: To investigate how the amount of peat consumption during wildfire in bogs or fens (muskeg), is affected by weather, fire behaviour, and properties of the tree canopy.

Researchers will manually measure various aspects of the peat, such as total peat depth and the proportion of unburned peat present in the area. Peat depth measurements will be made by driving a 2.5cm steel rod into the peat with a steel mallet until the underlying clay is reached. Proportion of area burned will be assessed by visual estimation. Approximately six shallow peat samples, each 50cm deep and 10cm across, will be collected in PVC pipes driven into the peat by a rubber mallet and extracted by hand. The peat samples will be analyzed at McMaster University (Hamilton, ON) for density and plant species origin, and can be returned to the peatland in 2010 if nearby communities request. Approximately 50 trees will be manually measured for diameter, total height, height of flame scorching in the trees. The researchers will also measure the depth from the burned peat surface to the uppermost roots at approximately 50 locations as well. Three trees killed by the fire will be cut down and 5cm section of the trunk will be taken for tree-ring analysis. The researchers will measure any regrowth of surface vegetation such as shrubs by setting up three 1 m2 plots and counting the number of leaves in each species.

Given the short time-span of research activities in 2009, potential for local involvement will be limited in the first year of field research.


Ultimately, an objective of the research is improve prediction of fire occurrence and behaviour in forested peatlands. Improved forest fire management and suppression resulting from this research may benefit communities indirectly.

The research group will contribute to the Aurora Research Institute's annual compendium of research. Furthermore, a plain language summary of their research is available at the research group's website (ecohydrology.mcmaster.ca) and will be updated to reflect their findings in the NWT. A summary of their findings will be made into a pamphlet or booklet for distribution to local communities as part of their wildfire readiness initiatives, such as FireSmart.


The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from August 15 to 17, 2009, at the wildfire near Sandy lake, that occurred in July 2008 (60 deg 34' 12.6'' N 114 deg 26' 25.5'' W, 100m west of territorial highway 5, just north of Wood Buffalo National Park).