Assessing the spatial fidelity of sedimentary charcoal size fractions as fire history proxies with a high-resolution sediment record and historical data

Richard S. Vachula, James M. Russell, Yongsong Huang, Nora Richter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Fire reconstructions provide context for modern rates of burning and inform predictions of fire regimes’ responses to climate and/or ecological changes. Charcoal particles preserved in lake sediments are a widely employed fire proxy. Although many studies have calibrated the charcoal proxy, the spatial scales of charcoal dispersal and source area remain disputed. Understanding the spatial fidelity of charcoal accumulation is increasingly important in light of recent efforts to aggregate multiple charcoal records to infer changes in regional, continental- and global-scale fire regimes. Using a high-resolution sediment record from Swamp Lake, California, we compare charcoal accumulation rate (CHAR) variations of three size fractions of sedimentary charcoal (63–150, >150, and >250 μm) to historical area burned data. We find that macroscopic (>250 and >150 μm) and mesoscopic (63–150 μm) charcoal source areas are within 25, 35, and 150 km of Swamp Lake, respectively. We also use a dispersal model to confirm these findings. Our estimates of charcoal source area fall within the large range of estimates for forest fires in the literature. Further, our methodology shows potential for constraining source areas of charcoal in sedimentary records, which is requisite for the reliable inference of the spatial extent of fire in paleorecords.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)166-175
Number of pages10
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Volume508
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by National Science Foundation ( NSF ) grant PLR-1503846 and a graduate student fellowship and research award granted by the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. R.S. Vachula thanks Kristina Brady and LacCore for sampling assistance and Bruce Boucek, Lynn Carlson, Rachel Franklin, and Yi Qi for GIS assistance and instruction.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright:
Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Biomass burning
  • Charcoal
  • Charcoal dispersal
  • Charcoal source area
  • Paleoecology
  • Paleofire

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing the spatial fidelity of sedimentary charcoal size fractions as fire history proxies with a high-resolution sediment record and historical data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this