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A forest fire in the Koroc Valley in the Low Arctic? Ecological consequences of a rare event

A.Roy, FeuKoroc, BigFormat

Photo Credit: Alexandre Roy - Aerial view of the forest fire in the Koroc Valley

Research Team



Northern regions are particularly sensitive to ecosystem disturbances associated with climate change. Certain disturbances, especially those affecting vegetation, such as wildfires, are rare in these tree-covered regions, but could increase in frequency and magnitude in the future. On June 8, 2022, Kuururjuaq National Park was the scene of a fire that started in the Koroc River valley, a valley characterized by black spruce-dominated boreal forest that gives way to shrub tundra at the top of the slopes. Interviews conducted with community members shortly after the fire revealed a high level of concern about this phenomenon, which remains an unprecedented event in the community's memory. The multifaceted project aims to document the conditions that may explain this unprecedented natural disturbance for the locality, to document the condition of the burn and compare it to the surrounding intact forest, to monitor the vegetation regeneration of the burn over time, and to assess certain impacts on wildlife, particularly the effects of mercury on fish. This project proposes to use this rare natural event to learn more about the changing dynamics of northern ecosystems and some of the impacts it may have on Kangiqsualujjuaq Inuit.

Progress (Year 1- April, 2024)

In collaboration with Nunavik Park (Isabeau Pratte and Corentin Chaillon), a reconnaissance field campaign was conducted by helicopter in the summer of 2023 at the fire site, but also at adjacent boreal forest sites showing signs of past fires. Charcoal samples were collected from some of these sites to date previous fires on the site and to place the summer 2022 fire in the context of the fire history of the valley. Preliminary analysis suggests that the last fires in the valley occurred over 100 years ago, confirming the observations of elders interviewed in 2022. The field trip also included drone flights over a population of white birch that may be one of the most northerly in Quebec. Samples were also taken to assess the history of this population. In short, the summer 2023 campaign in the Koroc was pivotal, allowing a first assessment of the impact of the summer 2022 fire and revealing that there is a history of old fires in the region. The fire is therefore not an exceptional event, but rather a rare one that must be placed in a particular fire regime in this northern boreal region.

The fieldwork revealed that very few spruce seeds had germinated after the fire, underscoring the importance of placing this event in the context of climate change to understand how this unique ecosystem will evolve in the coming decades. In light of the measurements taken in summer 2023, a new campaign with a precise sampling plan will be carried out in summer 2024.

List of communications

The project was presented to the community of Kangiqsualujjuaq and to Nunavik Park in the winter of 2023 by Alexandre Roy.

Scholarship Supplement

Congratulations to Béatrice Dupuis, who will begin her Master's studies at the UQAR in May 2024 under the supervision of Dominique Arsenault and Esther Lévesque, and who will receive a CEN scholarship worth $5,000.

Find out more about the scholarship supplement program.

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