Fire Regime and Land Abandonment in European Russia: Case Study of Smolensk Oblast

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Alexander Krylov1, Jessica L McCarty2, Peter Potapov1, Svetlana Turubanova1, Alexander Prishchepov3, Alexander Manisha4, Vladimir Romanenkov5, Dmitry Rukhovitch6, Polina Koroleva6 and Matthew Hansen1, (1)University of Maryland, College Park, MD, United States, (2)Michigan Technological University, Michigan Tech Research Institute, Houghton, MI, United States, (3)IAMO, Leibniz Institute of Agricultultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe, Halle, Germany, (4)NGO Transparent World, Moscow, Russia, (5)All-Russian Institute for Agrochemistry, Moscow, Russia, (6)V.V. Dokuchaev Soil Institute, Moscow, Russia
Fires in anthropogenically-dominated landscapes are generally attributed to ecosystem management, agriculture, and policy drivers. In European Russia, fire mainly occurring on agricultural lands, wetlands, and abandoned lands. In the agricultural practice in Russia prescribed fires are believed to increase pasture and hay productivity, suppress trees and shrub expansion, and reduce fire hazards, with fire frequency fire dependent on land use and agricultural practices. The large-scale socio-economic transition since the fall of the Soviet Union has led to changes in land use and land management, including land abandonment and changing agricultural practices. In June 2014, an extensive field campaign was completed in the Smolensk Oblast, located approximately two hundred kilometers west of Moscow on the border with Belarus. Our field sampling was based on circa 1985 Landsat-based forest cover map (Potapov et al., 2014). Points were randomly selected from the non-forested class of the 1985 classification, prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Of total field collects, 55% points were sampled on land in either early or late stage of abandonment, 15% from actively cropped fields, and 30% from hay or pasture. Fire frequency was calculated for the 108 field points using 1 km Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) active fire data for years 2000-2014. Also we calculated percent of points burned in spring 2014 using 30 m Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) data to derive burn scars. Actively cropped fields had lowest burn frequency while abandoned lands - early and late stage abandonment - had highest frequency. Fire frequency was significantly higher on wet soils than dry soils, with no relationship between fire frequency and tree canopy cover. We hypothesize, higher fire frequency on abandoned lands was likely due to greater fuel loads and because of traditional belief in rural Russia that fire is efficient way to suppress tree and shrub expansion.