Fire suppression and ecosystem carbon storage

David Tilman, Peter Reich, Hope Phillips, Mary Menton, Ami Patel, Erin Vos, David Peterson, J. Knops

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


A 35-year controlled burning experiment in Minnesota oak savanna showed that fire frequency had a great impact on ecosystem carbon (C) stores. Specifically, compared to the historical fire regime, fire suppression led to an average of 1.8 Mg·ha-1·yr-1 of C storage, with most carbon stored in woody biomass. Forest floor carbon stores were also significantly impacted by fire frequency, but there were no detectable effects of fire suppression on carbon in soil and fine roots combined, or in woody debris. Total ecosystem C stores averaged ~110 Mg/ha in stands experiencing presettlement fire frequencies, but ~220 Mg/ha in stands experiencing fire suppression. If comparable rates of C storage were to occur in other ecosystems in response to the current extent of fire suppression in the United States, fire suppression in the USA might account for 8-20% of missing global carbon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2680-2685
Number of pages6
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2000


  • Carbon storage
  • Fire suppression
  • Missing carbon
  • Oak savanna


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