Refining spatial, temporal, and seasonal fire patterns to aid modern fire management in the Mississippi River Headwaters Region

Authors: Dan Brumm*, University of Minnesota Department of Geography, Environment and Society , Kurt Kipfmueller, University of Minnesota Department of Geography, Environment and Society
Topics: Physical Geography, Biogeography
Keywords: fire history, tree-ring, Minnesota, land management, human-land interactions
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Stands of red pine (Pinus resinosa Ait.) in Itasca State Park and the Chippewa National Forest record a 300-year history of fire and climate. This ecological history is also interwoven with the human history of the Sioux, Ojibwe, coureur des bois/fur traders and EuroAmericans. Despite over 50-years of tree-ring-based fire history research in Itasca, sample depth and spatial coverage remains limited, and fire seasonality not widely addressed. To enhance spatial and temporal understanding of fire history for modern fire management in this region, we collected and cross-dated approximately 75 fire-scarred cross-sections from remnant red pine stumps at 10 sites in Itasca State Park. Preliminary analysis shows synchronous fire events between sites, mean fire intervals of approximately 25 years, with pre-fire suppression intervals varying from 4 to 54 years. Located near the prairie-forest border, climate and dominant vegetation surrounding Itasca have changed significantly throughout the past 11,000 years; historically though, fire was not likely excluded as it has been since the early 20th century. With the effective removal of fire as an ecological process, the abundance of fire dependent forest communities that are signature to the park have decreased significantly. Currently, they face compounding effects of climate change without the process most fundamental to their existence. By adapting our fire history for future implementation of fire as a forest management activity, it may be possible to regenerate diminishing fire dependent communities in the region, and emulate past ecological variability to buffer against anticipated effects of a changing climate.

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