A fire history derived from Pinus resinosa Ait. for the Islands of Eastern Lac la Croix, Minnesota, USA

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We reconstructed fire occurrence near a fur-trade era canoe travel corridor (used ca. 1780-1802) in the Quetico-Superior region west of Lake Superior to explore the possibility of human influence on pre-fire suppression rates of fire occurrence. Our research objectives were to (1) examine the spatial and temporal patterns of fire in the study area, (2) test fires' strength of association with regional drought, and (3) assess whether reconstructed fire frequencies could be explained by observed rates of lightning fire ignition over the modern period of record. We developed a 420-year fire history for the eastern portion of Lac La Croix in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Seventy-one fire-scarred samples were collected from remnant Pinus resinosa Ait. (red pine) stumps and logs from thirteen distinct island and three mainland forest stands. Collectively these samples contained records of 255 individual fire scars representing 79 fire events from 1636 to 1933 (study area mean fire intervals [MFI] = 3.8 yr). Reconstructed fires were spatially and temporally asynchronous and not strongly associated with regional drought (P > 0.05). When compared to the conservative, tree-ring reconstructed estimate of historical fire occurrence and modern lightning-caused fires (1929-2012), a noticeable change in the distribution and frequency of fires within the study area was evident with only two lightning-ignited island fires since 1934 in the study area. Our results suggest a high likelihood that indigenous land use contributed to surface fire ignitions within our study area and highlights the importance of examining the potential effects of past indigenous land use when determining modern approaches to fire and wilderness management in fire-adapted ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1030-1046
Number of pages17
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 by the Ecological Society of America.


  • Anthropogenic fire
  • Boundary waters canoe area wilderness (BWCAW)
  • Dendrochronology
  • Fire history
  • Fire regimes
  • Ojibwe
  • Pinus resinosa
  • Red pine
  • Traditional fire use


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