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.
Fig.2. Fire effects map of the same area, derived from satellite, aerial and ground observations. Source: Ministry of Forestry, PR China, Beijing.
Fig.3. Night-time views of the “Great Black Dargon Fire” of May 1987. Source: GFMC archive.
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
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).
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
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.
Fig.8. Close view of mature conifers (larch, pine) which often show “fire scars”. These scars allow dating of historic fires (see next figure).
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.
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.
Fig.11. Rare plant species are also found on fire-excluded sites. Photo: GFMC.
Fig.12. Local Fire Control Center in Heilongjiang Province (photo taken by GFMC in 1988).
Fig.13. Firefighters checking field equipment and get ready for suppression action in Daxinganling. Photo: GFMC.
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.