Reading the Rings of Red Pine to Retell Mechanisms of the Historic Fire Regime at Cloquet, Minnesota

Authors: Adam Donaldson*, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Kyle Gill, University of Minnesota Cloquet Forestry Center, Evan R Larson, University of Wisconsin-Platteville
Topics: Biogeography, Human-Environment Geography, Natural Resources
Keywords: Dendrochronology, Fire Ecology, Fire History, Red Pine, Historical Ecology, Human Geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom C, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The past dynamics and drivers of fire are critical to telling the story of today' trees and should inform forest management decisions. For this project, we sampled a direct physical record of pre-European settlement forest fire activity at the University of Minnesota’s Cloquet Forestry Center (CFC). Our goal was to create a more spatially and temporally comprehensive understanding of the historical role of fire in the forests of CFC. We sampled 80 fire-scarred red pine stumps, snags, and trees that collectively contained 410 individual fire scars. Tree-ring analysis of these samples produced a fire history spanning the years 1689 to 2017. The record includes 54 distinct fire years with a mean fire return interval (MFRI) of 6 years, with preliminary fire-climate analyses indicating widespread fires occurred during years of regional drought. We analyzed locational information of the fire-scarred samples to determine a coarse estimate of area burned and to explore the spatial dynamics of fire across the relatively contiguous landscape of CFC. Modern fire atlas data for CFC included perimeters of 14 fires that burned during nine fire years from 1910–1932, an MFRI of 3 years. Eleven of these fires were anthropogenic in origin, clearly depicting a recent fire regime influenced by people. Periods of similar fire frequency earlier in the record indicate humans have burned this landscape for centuries. We explored historical maps and records to determine the past proximity of human settlements to the study area and human influences on the historical fire regime of CFC.

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