The increasing frequency of wildfires in Canada’s boreal forest may be permanently changing one of the largest intact ecosystems left on Earth, research suggests.
“We feel pretty confident these effects will persist,” said Ellen Whitman, a forest ecologist at Natural Resources Canada and the University of Alberta.
Whitman is a co-author on a recently published paper examining what happens when stands of boreal forest — the huge belt of green that stretches over the northern reaches of most Canadian provinces — are burned over more often as a result of climate change.
She and her colleagues paired up forest areas that had similar climate and soil conditions and had last been burned by the same fire. One half had been previously burned no more than 17 years before, while the other half’s last fire had been at least 30 years ago.
The differences were striking.
The short-interval stands were far more open with fewer trees. Aspens dominated instead of conifers. Growth beneath the trees — shrubs and grasses that cover a normal forest floor — was far less luxuriant with many fewer species. Areas of exposed mineral soil, where all organic material had been burned off, were larger and more common.
They felt completely different.
“You have a landscape where you’re surrounded by short, stunted trees,” Whitman said. “You have a crust of lichen or some sparse grasses. It’s almost like walking through the edge of a prairie where you’re shifting from a grassland into a forest edge.
“At a lot of the long-interval sites, you’ve got quite dense conifers, closer together. You’ve got moss on the ground and flowers and shrubs. It’s more what looks like a young forest.”
Climate change breaking the rules
The boreal forest has evolved for fire. Many of its tree species need it to germinate.
Normally, fires don’t come around more often than every 30 years and often much longer. The lack of fuel in recently burned stands helps regulate that frequency.
Climate change is breaking those rules, Whitman said.
“We’re experiencing more hot, dry windy days — the main trigger for large fire years. As more years experience more extreme fire weather, (the blazes) are able to overwhelm that resistance that recently burned sites have.”
Nor are the parkland-like areas likely to evolve into a conventional boreal forest. Previous studies have found that the look of a forest is set early after a fire.
“Immediate post-fire condition is an extremely strong predictor of what the stand will look like further down the road,” said Whitman.
Whitman emphasizes that short-interval stands in her research are still small and most stretches of boreal forest burned in recent wildfires are regrowing normally. Wetlands are also less affected by short-interval fires than drier regions.
She said the forestry industry is unlikely to be affected any time soon — although forest-dependent animals such as caribou and songbirds will feel impacts.
And those impacts are growing.
“With a longer fire season, larger fires, more of the landscape burning each year, the likelihood of encountering a recently burned area increases. We’re undergoing a shortening of the fire frequency in the boreal forest.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 12, 2010
While having his young troupe rehearse for the first time, Jean Bellorini suddenly has the impression of reviving old ghosts: on the stage, 22 amateurs full of life put on costumes worn, there are more than a half. century, by Maria Casarès, Jean Vilar or even Georges Wilson. What do they have in common? They marked with their paw, their tone, their playing, the long history of Popular National Theater (TNP). «And it is overwhelming!», confides in an almost trembling voice the director who took the reins, a little over a year and a half ago.
Presented this Saturday, September 25 in Villeurbanne (Rhône), its creation And others than me will perhaps continue my dreams is the culmination of a centenary that the establishment has been celebrating for nearly a month, through meetings, exhibitions and original shows.
→ READ. Villeurbanne, popular capital of culture
On November 11, 1920, Firmin Gémier brought out of the ground, in Paris, the first version of the TNP, the fruit of a revolutionary utopia inspired by Maurice Pottecher and which has become an obsession: theater for all. The last on the list of his successors is now clear: “ we must never fall into the trap of forgetting but constantly renew this project which seeks only one thing: to humanize society a little. »
A NPT in the plural
On the mezzanine overlooking the entrance to the building, old memos are displayed: “Dear Monique, it is essential to send the actors these good faith remarks which come from the spectators», can we read from the hand of Jean Vilar. Because if he is not the founding father, the man of the theater is a key architect of the conquest of the new public: at the helm between 1951 and 1963, he introduced an end-of-show questionnaire, lower prices. , schedule changes, which blew up the “bourgeois” codes. So much so that the sociologist Laurent Fleury, invited to speak this Saturday afternoon, recounts having heard several times in his interviews: «Vilar’s NPT changed my life. »
Here, we readily speak of “the” NPT. First, for obvious geographical reasons, since, after having been successively associated with the Trocadéro and Chaillot palaces in Paris, the label was transferred to the Lyon metropolis where decentralization ended up doing its job. But also because the institution is imbued with each new mandate with a personality and a historical context. «We want it to bring together and educate in the post-war periods, while it must instead challenge and transform in the post-1968 years!», recalls Marion Denizot, professor of theater studies at the University of Rennes.
After the “democratization” of the great classics, therefore, Georges Wilson gradually opened up the repertoire to contemporary authors. Roger Planchon claimed power in «director-creator». All will suffer their share of criticism – artistic, administrative, societal – but none will arouse controversy.
A political fight
«And it’s curious ”, we hear several times in the room. Because the job is a “huge responsibility” », As Jeanne Laurent suggests, in an exchange of letters chosen to inaugurate the centenary events. The decisive role of this high official from the middle of the twentiethe century reminds us that the anniversary is also that of a political fight, to impose everywhere the intuition of public theater. If the gesture is today taken up by many initiatives, institutional or citizen, the National Popular Theater remains a place of memory and an eternal experience, «whose ambition will never really come true ”, believes Jean Bellorini.
Appointed in January 2020, this supporter of an art made «by and for hearts» refuses the title of heir but feels responsible for the history of an establishment, which it sometimes happens to rename «National Poetic Theater». It promotes transmission «direct “, by importing its concept of «ephemeral troop» with young inhabitants, or by supporting the project of mini-cultural centers in schools.
«I believe that the permanence and the anchoring of artists in the territory are among our most effective tools today ”, he explains. The goal has not really changed: to remember that everyone has in themselves «the faculty of wonder “.
The National Popular Theater in six terms
1920. After the abortive experience of the Traveling National Theater, the director Firmin Gémier founded the National Popular Theater (TNP) at the Trocadéro Palace in Paris.
1951. Supporter of a “Theater-public service”, Jean Vilar is appointed by Jeanne Laurent at the head of the TNP, at the new Palais de Chaillot.
1972. The label was transferred to the Théâtre de la Cité, founded in Villeurbanne by Roger Planchon, who took over the management alongside Patrice Chéreau and Robert Gilbert: the TNP became a symbol of decentralization.
2002. Christian Schiaretti becomes director of the establishment, where he notably inaugurates the new Grand-Théâtre.
2020. Jean Bellorini, former director of the Gérard-Philipe Theater in Saint-Denis, takes over: he proposes a project focused on transmission and anchored in the territory.
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