Geographic and temporal variations in fire history in boreal ecosystems of Alaska
Charcoal and pollen analyses were used to determine geographic and temporal patterns of fire importance in boreal forests of the Kenai Peninsula and interior Alaska. Sieved, large charcoal particles were measured in continuously sampled cores of Rock, Portage, and Arrow Lakes (Kenai Peninsula) and Dune and Deuce Lakes (interior Alaska) to estimate regional fire importance and fire occurrence. Charcoal accumulation rates have been low for the past 1000 years in both regions with slightly higher values in interior Alaska than on the Kenai Peninsula. An exception to this general pattern was the period of post-European settlement on the Kenai Peninsula, where charcoal accumulation rates increased by 10-fold. This increase most likely reflected increased fire occurrence due to human ignition. The Holocene charcoal and pollen records from Dune Lake indicate low fire occurrence during the early (9000 to 5500 calibrated year before present (yr BP)) birch-white spruce-alder (Betula-Picea glauca-Alnus) communities and high fire occurrence as black spruce (Picea mariana) became established after 5500 yr BP. Increased fires probably resulted from a change to fire-prone black spruce forests. For the past 5500 yr BP, two distinct fire regimes occurred. Frequent fires, with an average fire return interval of 98 years, characterized the period from 5500-2400 yr BP. Fewer fires, with an average fire interval of 198 years, characterized the period after 2400 yr BP. Fuel accumulation, stand structure, and vegetation species contributed to the natural variability in fire regimes during past changes in climate.
Lynch, JA; Clark, JS; Bigelow, NH; Edwards, ME; Finney, BP
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