Gas-and-Aerosol Emission from Forest Fires
Gas and Aerosol Emissions from Forest Fires in Russia: Impacts on Chemical, Radiochemical and Optical Qualities of Atmosphere, Carbon Cycling, Radioecological Consequences, and Biocenosis Sustainability
Tech Area / Field
- ENV-APC/Air Pollution and Control/Environment
- ENV-EHS/Environmental Health and Safety/Environment
- ENV-RWT/Radioactive Waste Treatment/Environment
8 Project completed
Senior Project Manager
Genisaretskaya S V
NPO Mayak, Russia, Chelyabinsk reg., Oziorsk
- Siberian Branch of RAS / V.N. Sukachev Institute of Forest, Russia, Krasnoyarsk reg., Krasnoyarsk\nInstitute of Chemical Kinetics and Combustion, Russia, Novosibirsk reg., Novosibirsk\nSiberian State Academy of Geodesy, Russia, Novosibirsk reg., Novosibirsk
- United States Department of Agriculture / Forest Service, USA, MT, Missoula\nNatural Resources Canada / Canadian Forest Service, Canada, ON, Sault Ste. Marie\nForschungszentrum für Umwelt und Gesundheit GmbH (GSF) / Institut für Strahlenschutz, Germany, Neuherberg
Project summaryThe objective of this project is to obtain the quantitative data on capacity, chemical and radiochemical compositions, and disperse characteristics of gas-and-aerosol emission of the biomass burning products into the air, and on biological and (radio-)ecological post-fire consequences caused by the large-scale fires in forest and forest-steppe areas of Russia. The data to be obtained must be representational for the forecast of local, regional and, possibly, global changes in chemical, radiochemical and meteophysical (optical) properties of the atmosphere (including potential weather-and-climatic trend) and in other biological media (soil, plants), as well as for understanding the biological consequences of fires in the forest ecosystems. The meteophysical and chemical effects (including radiochemical impact) of this emission on the atmosphere and adjacent media will be estimated on the basis of the data on capacity, chemical, radio-chemical and disperse compositions of emission. These data will be obtained during the fire experiments “in situ”, which simulate the wildland forest fires. Biological and radioecological consequences will be studied during the expeditions on the territories subjected the above “in situ” modeling fires (usually 4 ha each) or/and wildland fires.
About two thirds of the world’s boreal (i.e., north) forests is found in Russia with more than half of this located in Siberia and Ural. Russian forest fires burn vast areas annually (10-15 million ha). Burning of forest biomass results in emission of large quantities (300–500 million tons) of gas byproducts (mainly, carbon dioxide) and smoke particles. These compounds and fires have considerable impact on chemical and optical qualities of the atmosphere, on weather and, possibly, global climate, biochemical carbon cycling, sustainability and post-fire regeneration of forest ecosystems. Potential climatic impact (presumably atmospheric warming) of the gas byproducts is caused by the emission of carbon dioxide and other green-house gases. Previous international studies have focused on the gas emissions from wildfires in African savannas and South American tropical forests. Despite data showing that very large quantity of carbon dioxide was being injected into the atmosphere above the fires, its climatic role was found to be slight. This is probably due to dissolving of carbon dioxide in adjacent ocean body which serves as a huge buffer. Another reason is that under climatic conditions in the equatorial zone the consumption of free carbon dioxide proceeds rapidly due to the rapid vegetative growth. However, transformation of biological carbon under the cool and dry climate of Siberia should differ from the equatorial zone. In particular, bio-organic carbon which was contained in the pre-fire forest biomass and not completely consumed by the fire could take many years to accomplish its natural carbon cycle Cbio→ Cnon-bio + CO2 →Cbio. This could take close to a century to occur in contrast to equatorial zones where it proceeds for a few years. Particulate matter and its impact on atmospheric optical properties have been the objective of many studies. The fine aerosols, particularly those containing a great amount of elemental carbon (soot particles), are known to disturb radiation transfer in the atmosphere through their effects on the sunlight scattering and absorption resulting in decrease in solar energy which can reach the land. The emission of smoke aerosols can affect the weather and, probably, the climatic processes (presumably atmospheric cooling). Apparently, the potential climatic impacts from the gas and particulate emissions act contrary to each other, and we are in need of representational quantitative data to understand and predict the integrated climatic effect from both kinds of fire emission. A specific ecological problem related to the particulate emission from biomass burning is that the fire areas can be contaminated with radionuclides, heavy metals, and pesticides uplifted by the fire. The emission of these pollutants could be resulted in a dangerous concentration of toxic compounds in the air inhaled, and would contaminate the territory outside of the fire area. The quantitative measurements of physical (optical) and chemical properties (including radiochemical ones) of large amount of particulate emission from biomass burning in Siberian forests are very important because of their effects on optical and (radio)chemical properties of the atmosphere and on the atmospheric heat-and-mass transfer. This could have an influence on local weather and, possibly, on global climate, as well as on atmospheric chemical reactions, and chemical and radiogenic air quality. Acquisition of these data to understand and predict the severity of emissions problems in Siberia from forest fires is the primary goal of this project.
Wildfires in boreal forests and their effect on global carbon cycling have been studied in Canada and the United States since the 1980s.The first international fire experiment in boreal forest of Siberia was carried out in 1993 (with the assistance of this ISTC Proposal personnel). This promoted subsequent investigations of fire effects on the vulnerability and sustainability of the boreal forest’s ecosystems, and on the gas-and-aerosol emission (2000-03). However, more fire experiments and novel experimental procedures are required in both forest and laboratory (test-bench) conditions for developing validated research consensus on the extent of this problem. In this regard, the study of pyrolitic, and (radio-)ecological characteristics of Siberian and Ural forest ecosystems before and after fires, is a key activity for predicting biological and (radio)-ecological consequences of forest fires. Acquisition of this information is the second goal for the project. Together, both goals express the main objective: To determine quantitatively and qualitatively possible physicochemical changes in the atmosphere, radiogenic and bio-ecological consequences, sustainability and regeneration ability for Siberian and Ural forest ecosystems, and a possible weather/climatic impact due to the occurrence of large-scale wildland fires in the boreal forest zone.
The Project Team and Earlier Results:
The “weapon team” (“Mayak” PA) has an experience on the radiobiological influence of radioactive emission on the environmental objects. This study was carried out on a territory called “The East Urals Radioactive Trace”. Heavy radiation has resulted from a nuclear accident in the 50s of the last century. Since 1999, the Institute of Chemical Kinetics, Institute of Forest, and Geodesic Academy have collaborated with researchers from the USDA and Canadian Forest Services The research team has specialists in different fields of sciences: physics and chemistry of aerosols; analytical chemistry; forest biology, pyrology and fire behavior; space monitoring and mapping; geodesy and photogrammetry.. A series of fire experiments (13 fires were conducted in 2000-03) was accomplished, including remote sensing and aerial (helicopter) monitoring, and ground validation of fires. The wide experience of the established international scientific team, the methods and techniques currently available, the logistics of working in a country such as Russia, and the earlier emission and (radio-)ecological results provides an important opportunity to document the physical (optical) and (radio-) chemical characteristics of gas-and-aerosol emission, biological and (radio)-ecological consequences in both local (i.e., on the fire sites) and regional and, probably, global scales.
Research Approach and Expected Results:
A study of pyrolitic and biological properties of forest ecosystems in pre-fire and post-fire conditions will be conducted. Several modeling fires in the Krasnoyarsk Region and in the Urals will be carried out. Modern analytical methods: SRXRF; ionic and reaction gas chromatography; GC-MS; inertial impactors of aerosols, digital photogrammetry- will be used to sample the emission and to determine its (radio)chemical and disperse characteristics, radio-ecological and biological consequences from fires. The following results are expected:
- To study aerosol emission of radionuclides by fires in a territory polluted with radioactive contaminants, and to measure its capacity and radiochemical composition, and ecological and biological consequences.
- To determine the amounts of fire gas-and-aerosol emissions and to document their chemical and disperse compositions dependent on the energy of forest fire, and on biological and pyrolitic properties of forest fuels in different types of boreal forests. To estimate impact of gas-and-aerosol emission on chemical and optical qualities of the atmosphere and other natural media (soils, plants, etc) adjacent to the burn site.
- To develop critical information on fire behavior under different fuel and bio-landscape conditions and the impact of fire characteristics on carbon cycling, sustainability and regeneration ability of forest biocenosis.
The results on the physicochemical and radiochemical effects, and bio- and radio-ecological consequences obtained from several modeling fires (as a rule 4 ha each) must provide the basis for extrapolating this information to the large-scale wildfires on the boreal territories of Siberia and Ural (10-15 million ha annually) and, probably, the world’s boreal forest. These information, coupled with our 2000-03 data, will support everyone in understanding the problems associated with the management of forest fuel and fire regimes to enhance carbon storage and forest sustainability in ways that minimize the negative impact of fires on the global environment, wood production, and ecosystem health. The results can be used in running climatic model scenarios to estimate potential weather and climatic changes due to emissions from large-scale forest fires.
The Project meets ISTC goals and objectives:
- A large group of weapon scientists, engineers, and technicians will participate in the research.
- The investigation is associated with potential (radio-)chemical, (radio-)ecological and climatic changes in the Environment (i.e., with problems of environmental protection).
- This will promote the integration of weapons scientists into the international scientific community.
Foreign collaborators from Canada, USA and Germany will participate in the Project:
- By taking part in the research expeditions to study fires and fire effects on forest ecosystems of Russia;
- By studying chemical properties of gas-and aerosol emissions sampled during the Russian experimental fires;
- By providing an information exchange of relevant information outside of Russian;
- By conducting joint seminars and workshops with Russian investigators;
- By co-authoring joint scientific and technical papers and reports, and commenting on technical reports submitted by the project participants to the ISTC
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