The case for soil charcoal in multi-proxy reconstructions of fire history

Authors: Christopher Underwood*, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Sally P Horn, University of Tennessee
Topics: Biogeography, Paleoenvironmental Change, Field Methods
Keywords: Fire, soil charcoal, dendropyrochronology, pedoanthracology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8222, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Soil charcoal analysis can be combined with dendropyrochronology to provide multi-proxy, site-specific information on fire history in many forest types. Charcoal preserved in soils can provide evidence of long-term fire history relevant to resource management and to studies of paleoclimate, vegetation history, and human impacts on the environment. Radiocarbon-based charcoal records of fire history are of low resolution in comparison to annual or seasonal dendrochronological records, but extend well beyond the oldest trees in most areas, providing evidence of fires that occurred thousands or tens of thousands of years ago. Macroscopic charcoal (≥ 2 mm) is often large enough for taxonomic identification and of sufficient mass to enable AMS radiocarbon dating of individual particles, thus providing additional data on paleovegetation composition of forests. Both proxies have been used for decades to investigate fire history in forest communities, but they are not paired in investigations of temporally comprehensive (i.e., spanning both centurial and millennial scales) fire occurrence as frequently as one might imagine.

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