A Multiproxy Record of Paleoenvironmental Change from a Belizean Pine Savanna

Authors: Jacob Cecil*, University of Tennessee, Cathy E. Smith, University of Edinburgh, Sally P. Horn, University of Tennessee, Mathew S. Boehm, University of Tennessee, Chad S. Lane, University of North Carolina Wilmington
Topics: Paleoenvironmental Change, Anthropocene
Keywords: Paleoenvironment, Fire, Paleoecology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Coolidge, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

While tropical savannas are naturally fire-prone ecosystems, anthropogenic burning can influence their distribution. Precisely when human activity in southern Belize began to significantly alter regional fire regimes is unknown, but savannas there are composed of fire-adapted species and are regarded as having evolved with both anthropogenic and natural fire. Here we present a multiproxy record from lake sediment cores that documents the complex interaction between fire, people, climate, and vegetation during the late Holocene based upon 1). high-resolution analysis (1-cm interval sampling) of local fire history based on macroscopic (>125 μm) charcoal; 2). pollen analysis to determine vegetation history; and 3). stable carbon isotope analysis to chart shifts in C3 vs. C4 vegetation surrounding the site. Our analyses are based on two cores recovered in March 2018 from Pine Pond, a roughly circular pond of about 0.5 ha on the boundary of the Deep River Forest Reserve. The pond is presently surrounded by an area of tropical pine savanna that may be threatened by increased, near-annual anthropogenic burning. Core 2 from near the center of the lake is ~6 m long and extends to ca. 4700 cal yr BP. Core 1, collected closer to shore, is ~2 m long and covers the last ca. 1200 years. This long term paleoecological reconstruction provides evidence for changes in fire, vegetation, and climate over distinct periods during the prehistoric and historic era. Such information will be relevant for both current and future conservation practices within the Deep River Forest Reserve.

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