A New Sedimentary Charcoal Record of Fire History from a Sinkhole Pond in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, USA

Authors: Lisa M. Kennedy*, Virginia Tech, Joshua D. Starner, Virginia Tech
Topics: Paleoenvironmental Change, Biogeography, Physical Geography
Keywords: sediment, charcoal, fire history, Appalachian
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Long sediment-based fire histories representing the Appalachian region, including the Great Valley portion of central Appalachia, remain sparse leaving spatial and temporal gaps in our knowledge of past fire patterns. This project examines macroscopic charcoal and other proxy data archived in the sediments of a sinkhole pond in the Shenandoah Valley of central Virginia. We recovered a 148-cm sediment core from Maple Pond in the Shenandoah Valley Sinkhole Pond complex. The complex is situated along the bottom edge of alluvial fans emanating from the western Blue Ridge. Researchers working for the US Forest Service interpreted (unpublished report, 2002) extremely low charcoal quantities of macroscopic charcoal in an ~20,000yr-old sediment core from nearby Spring Pond (~3km distant) as evidence that fires were rare in this area throughout the Holocene. In contrast, our in-progress analysis of macro-charcoal in the Maple Pond sediment core indicates that fires did burn the local forests, probably more frequently during some periods than others. Using a 1cm-sampling scheme, we washed 1cc sediment samples through mesh sieves and conducted loss-on-ignition analysis with a paired 1cc sample. We identified and quantified charcoal fragments >250µm left on the sieves via microscopy. Our analyses to date indicate abundant charcoal in some core sections: charcoal fragments >250µm/cc sediment range from 0 to 67. Radiocarbon dating, in progress, will provide chronological control for our samples. Spring Pond and other local ponds studied in the late 1960s were dated to >15,000 years old.

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