Humans, fire, and ecology in the southern Missouri Ozarks, USA

William P. Nanavati, Eric C. Grimm

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Abstract

A multiproxy study from Sweeton Pond, Ozark County, Missouri, USA, provides a high-resolution 1900-year-long history of vegetation and fire in the southern Missouri Ozarks, where the modern vegetation is oak-hickory (Quercus-Carya) forest. Pollen and charcoal data are compared with dendroecological data to assess how climate and fire shaped local vegetation history. Land use, particularly by the Osage tribe of Native Americans, is assessed from historical and archaeological records. Three cultural periods are superimposed on the paleoenvironmental history: (1) The Pre-Osage period, ending ~1500 CE, was characterized by open oak-hickory forest and frequent low-severity fires, suggesting interannual climate variability as a driver of vegetation and fire occurrence. At ~1360 CE, mesic tree species began to expand, while fire frequency remained low. (2) The Osage period (~1500–1820 CE) was characterized by the continued expansion of mesic, fire-sensitive species, especially elm (Ulmus), in conjunction with cool, effectively wet conditions in the southern Missouri Ozarks. Despite climate conditions less favorable for fire, Osage expansion in the region was accompanied by increased fire and fire-dependent shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata). The expansion of both fire-sensitive and fire-dependent taxa coincident with Osage occupation suggests that anthropogenic fire and land use was local in nature and increased landscape heterogeneity prior to Euro-American settlement. (3) The Euro-American period (since ~1820 CE) was characterized by increased disturbance pollen types (e.g. Ambrosia-type) at the expense of shortleaf pine pollen, resulting from increased settlement size and extensive agricultural and logging activities. During this period, forest clearance led to fuel fragmentation, reducing fire activity; after 1920 CE, fire was actively suppressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-135
Number of pages11
JournalHolocene
Volume30
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4853-5429 Nanavati William P 1 2 https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6977-3859 Grimm Eric C 3 1 Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, USA 2 Montana Institute on Ecosystems, Montana State University, USA 3 Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, USA William P Nanavati, Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717-3480, USA. Email: wnanavati@gmail.com 9 2019 0959683619875807 8 4 2019 15 7 2019 © The Author(s) 2019 2019 SAGE Publications A multiproxy study from Sweeton Pond, Ozark County, Missouri, USA, provides a high-resolution 1900-year-long history of vegetation and fire in the southern Missouri Ozarks, where the modern vegetation is oak-hickory ( Quercus-Carya ) forest. Pollen and charcoal data are compared with dendroecological data to assess how climate and fire shaped local vegetation history. Land use, particularly by the Osage tribe of Native Americans, is assessed from historical and archaeological records. Three cultural periods are superimposed on the paleoenvironmental history: (1) The Pre-Osage period, ending ~1500 CE, was characterized by open oak-hickory forest and frequent low-severity fires, suggesting interannual climate variability as a driver of vegetation and fire occurrence. At ~1360 CE, mesic tree species began to expand, while fire frequency remained low. (2) The Osage period (~1500–1820 CE) was characterized by the continued expansion of mesic, fire-sensitive species, especially elm ( Ulmus ), in conjunction with cool, effectively wet conditions in the southern Missouri Ozarks. Despite climate conditions less favorable for fire, Osage expansion in the region was accompanied by increased fire and fire-dependent shortleaf pine ( Pinus echinata ). The expansion of both fire-sensitive and fire-dependent taxa coincident with Osage occupation suggests that anthropogenic fire and land use was local in nature and increased landscape heterogeneity prior to Euro-American settlement. (3) The Euro-American period (since ~1820 CE) was characterized by increased disturbance pollen types (e.g. Ambrosia -type) at the expense of shortleaf pine pollen, resulting from increased settlement size and extensive agricultural and logging activities. During this period, forest clearance led to fuel fragmentation, reducing fire activity; after 1920 CE, fire was actively suppressed. anthropogenic fire regime fire history late-Holocene Ozark highlands paleoecology vegetation history National Science Foundation https://doi.org/10.13039/100000001 GSS-1461590 Office of International Science and Engineering https://doi.org/10.13039/100000089 0966472 edited-state corrected-proof The authors thank P Mueller for initial pollen preparation, K Gates for assistance in the design of Figure 1a–c, and C Whitlock for extensive input on the manuscript. Field assistance was provided by P Mueller, RB McMillan, B Styles, T Stafford, and R Toomey. The Sweeton Pond cores are deposited at the National Lacustrine Core Facility (LacCore) at the University of Minnesota. The pollen and charcoal data are deposited in the Neotoma Paleoecology Database ( www.neotomadb.org ): Dataset IDs 46128-46132. Funding The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This article benefitted from research supported by the WildFIRE PIRE project (National Science Foundation grant OISE 0966472) and NSF award GSS-1461590. ORCID iDs William P Nanavati https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4853-5429 Eric C Grimm https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6977-3859

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.

Copyright:
Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • anthropogenic fire regime
  • fire history
  • late-Holocene
  • Ozark highlands
  • paleoecology
  • vegetation history

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • SWTP

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