Queen's University

School of Environmental Studies
Dept. of Geological Sciences & Geological Engineering

Impacts and benefits of wildfires on biogeochemical and hydrological cycles and the role of fungi in post-fire ecological recovery

We are initiating projects studying the positive and negative effects of wildfires on hydrological and biogeochemical cycles with a particular interest in anthropogenically disturbed systems in Canada’s North that have elevated metal contaminant loadings. How do fires impact contaminant mobility? We know fires have big impacts on hydrology, but how does that feedback into contaminant biogeochemical cycles? Can fire remediate metal polluted ecosystems? We combine soil and water chemistry sampling and analysis with landscape hydrology monitoring to study fire and contaminant affected systems.

Since the Yellowstone National Park Fire in 1988, there has been a paradigm shift in which Western ecologists and conservationists have begun to recognize the critical role of fire in ecosystem health; a view known to Indigenous Land Stewards across the world for millennia. We are also beginning to unravel the mysteries of the critical relationships between mycorrhizal fungi and above ground flora in maintaining healthy ecological systems. However, our knowledge of role of fungi in post-fire succession (recovery) is not well understood, particularly in areas with long fire return intervals (FRI; the time period between fires) such as north-eastern North America. We use soil fungal DNA extractions, fruiting body chemical and DNA analyses and observations to better understand these fire-fungi-soil-flora relationships.

Recent Projects

Wildfire Modelling

Wildfire Modelling

The FEWA Lab interest in wildfires continues to grow. 2023 will see primarily student led wildfire modelling projects that will examine wildfire smoke emissions and wildfire danger indices to help improve our understanding of fire using numerical tools. One of the...