Fire and logging threats to primary forests in central Siberia

Using remote sensing time series, we found increasing trends in fire and logging disturbances in primary forests of the Angara case study region. We also found large increases in fires closer to human settlements, roads, and logged sites.

Human-caused forest disturbances are destroying and degrading primary forests and are a critical global environmental issue. This is particularly the case within boreal Siberia, which is home to over one-quarter of the world’s remaining primary forests and is subject to increasing fires, logging, and other disturbances.

Despite this, detailed attribution and trends in disturbances are lacking for most Siberian regions. The Angara region located in the southern taiga of Central Siberia has been a hotspot of forest change in Eurasia, yet still contains vast tracts of remaining primary forests.

In our study  we estimated fire and logging disturbances using MODIS and Landsat satellite imagery for the period 2002–2020 across the Angara region and analyzed the resulting trends.

Average annual burned and logged area was about 220 and 31 thousand ha or 2 and 0.3% of the study area, respectively. In total, about 4.1 million ha (38% of the region) and 0.6 million ha (6% of the region) were disturbed by fires and logging, respectively. Both disturbance types showed increasing trends in annual area affected.

Spatial analysis showed that almost 50% of fires were ignited within 2 km of anthropogenic features such as settlements, roads and logged areas. Almost 5% of the Angara region was burned two or more times during the 19 years of observations. Improved and strictly-enforced conservation and management policies are required to halt continued forest degradation in the Angara region and similarly-affected boreal forests in Siberia.

Maps of remotely-sensed fires (left) and logged areas (right) across Siberia from 2002-2020

Maps of remotely-sensed fires (left) and logged areas (right) across Siberia from 2002-2020.

Article authors

Brendan Rogers

Brendan Rogers

Dr. Rogers investigates how boreal forests are responding to climate change and land use, how this feeds back to climate change, and how management and policy can be used for mitigation and adaptation.
Tatiana Shestakova

Tatiana Shestakova

Tatiana is a post-doctoral researcher at Woodwell Climate Research Center research. Her interests span the fields of terrestrial ecology, stable isotope biogeochemistry, ecosystem modelling and climate change impacts on natural ecosystems.

Additional authors

Evgeny Shvetsov, Elena Kukavskaya, and Jocelyne Laflamme.


Shvetsov, E. G., Kukavskaya, E. A., Shestakova, T. A., Laflamme, J., & Rogers, B. M. (2021). Increasing fire and logging disturbances in Siberian boreal forests: A case study of the Angara region. Environmental Research Letters, 16(11), 115007.