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3500 years of fire and vegetation history from the central Sierra Nevada, California

Authors: Theodore Dingemans*, , Anna Klimaszewski-Patterson, California State University Sacramento, Scott Mensing, University of Nevada, Reno
Topics: Paleoenvironmental Change
Keywords: Pollen, charcoal, Paleoenvironmental Change, Sierra Nevada, Anthropogenic Impact
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As climate continues to warm the management of fire in Western North American forests becomes increasingly challenging and important. Understanding how forest composition and fire frequency varied in the past and responded to climatic and anthropogenic influences is vital to planning for the future. Here we present a new record of vegetation change and fire from Markwood Meadow, Sierra National Forest, California. This study represents one of the first new paleoecological studies in the region in the last 20 years. This site is located at 1700 m and is situated within the zone of black oak, which was a key food resource for Native Americans in the region. Numerous bedrock mortars surrounding the meadow attest to at least some periods of occupation and resource extraction at the site, and suggest that the site may have been sensitive to changing human as well as climatic impacts in the past. Preliminary age control indicates the sediment record from Markwood Meadow extends back to at least the mid-Holocene. Our focus is on the most recent 2-3 thousand years because this time frame allows for comparison between pollen and tree-ring based reconstructions. Several fires are identifiable from preliminary analysis of the charcoal record. Pollen reveals a landscape dominated by pine. Fir and oak are at their highest levels over the last 800 years, and incense cedar peaks in the modern period.

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