Advances in fire history research and their application for ecosystem management and conservation

Cathy WHITLOCK, Willy TINNER

Abstract


Paleoecology is a valuable tool for understanding the long-term ecosystem dynamics that underlie present environmental conditions.  Fire is an important form of disturbance in most terrestrial ecosystems, and increased levels of biomass burning in many parts of the world have raised concerns about the role of fire in transforming vegetation composition, extent, and function in the future.  Sedimentary charcoal records can help inform this discussion by providing fire-history information that spans a range of temporal and spatial scales.  At a regional to continental scale, climate emerges as the strong driver of past biomass burning, with warmer periods being associated with higher fire activity.  In many regions, humans have also significantly altered natural fire regimes through (1) igniting fires in places where fires were naturally rare, (2) lengthening the fire season through deliberate burning, (3) manipulating fuels through land-use activities, and (4) suppressing or eliminating natural fires

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4316/GEOREVIEW.2016.26.2.360