Photo Archive: China

People’s Republic of China: Fires in the Mountain-Boreal Forests of Heilongjiang Province

© It is not permitted to export, utilize and publish any photographs without the written permission of the GFMC and the Academy ofForestry, Beijing.


1. The 2002 Fire Season in China. A Report from the Academy for Forestry, Beijing (PDF file)

2. Photographs from the GFMC Archive

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Fig.1. Satellite (LANDSAT) image of the land area affected by wildfires in the North of PR China, Heilongjiang Province, May-June 1987.   The total area affected by fire was 1.14 million ha forest and 0.87 million ha other land. Source: Ministry of Forestry, PR China, Beijing.

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Fig.2. Fire effects map of the same area, derived from satellite, aerial and ground observations. Source: Ministry of Forestry, PR China, Beijing.

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Fig.3.  Night-time views of the “Great Black Dargon Fire” of May 1987. Source: GFMC archive.

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Fig.4. Fire-damaged forest in Heilongjiang Province: The fire effects were extremely destructive in many places because large-sized plantations (young age classes) on former clear cuts carried the fire quickly over long distances. There were little to none mature and fire-tolerant trees left after clearcut, thus the survival rate and regeneration potential were extremely low in these sites. Photo: GFMC

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Fig.5.  The forest landscape of the mountain-boreal forest of the Daxinganling mountains, Heilongjiang Province, is characterized by a fire mosaic of different post-fire regeneration/succession stages and a mix of pioneer species (softwoods like birch and aspen) and conifers (larch, pine).
Photo: GFMC.

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Fig.6. Recurrent low- to medium intensity surface fires inside of larch (Larix gmelinii) and pine (Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica) stands often kill the fire-susceptible hardwoods which resprout after fire. The mature and fire-resistant pines easily survive surface fires. Photo: GFMC

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Fig.7.  Close view into a pine forest recently burned by a medium-intensity surface fire. Some pine trees have also been consumed by fire.
Photo: GFMC.

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Fig.8.  Close view of mature conifers (larch, pine) which often show “fire scars”. These scars allow dating of historic fires (see next figure).
Photo: GFMC.

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Fig.9.  Cross section of a larch tree (upper) with two well-recognizable fire scars (cut for laboratory analysis). The lower photo shows a tree stump measured in the field, showing also several fire scars which allow dating of historic fire events. Photo: GFMC, with support by Xueying Di and Tobias Zorn.

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Fig.10.  Fire-susceptible tree species such as spruce (Picea jezoensis, P.abies var. obovata, P. koraiensis) are not common in places regularly affected by natural and human-caused wildfires. They survive only in non-flammable refugia, e.g. on rocky terrain. Photo: GFMC.

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Fig.11. Rare plant species are also found on fire-excluded sites. Photo: GFMC.

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Fig.12. Local Fire Control Center in Heilongjiang Province (photo taken by GFMC in 1988).

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Fig.13. Firefighters checking field equipment and get ready for suppression action in Daxinganling. Photo: GFMC.

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Fig.14. Air blower for suppressing low-intensity surface fires in light and aerial fuels. This equipment is based on a chainsaw motor and has been proven successful in operations where water is lacking. Photo: GFMC.

For more information on fires in the People’s Republic of China: Please visit the China Country File of IFFN. The following publications deal with the large fires of 1987 and some ecological aspects of fire in the montane-boreal forests in the North of the country:

Literature on forest fire in China:

Salisbury, H. 1989. The Great Black Dragon Fire. A Chinese inferno. Little, Brown and Company. Boston, 180 p.

Ende, J., and Xueying Di. 1990. The forest conflagration of May 1987 in Northeastern China. In: Fire in ecosystem dynamics. Mediterranean and northern perspectives (J.G. Goldammer and M.J. Jenkins, eds.), 169-174. SPB Academic Publ., The Hague.

Goldammer, J.G., and Xueying Di. 1990. The role of fire in the montane-boreal coniferous forest of Daxinganling, Northeast China: A preliminary model. In: Fire in ecosystem dynamics. Mediterranean and northern perspectives (J.G. Goldammer and M.J.Jenkins, eds.), 175-184. SPB Academic Publishing, The Hague, 199 p.


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