Past and present vulnerability of closed-canopy temperate forests to altered fire regimes: A comparison of the pacific Northwest, New Zealand, and Patagonia

Cathy Whitlock, David B. McWethy, Alan J. Tepley, Thomas T. Veblen, Andres Holz, Matt S. McGlone, George L.W. Perry, Janet M. Wilmshurst, Samuel W. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations

Abstract

The relative importance of people and climate in shaping prehistoric fire regimes is debated around the world, and this discussion has helped inform our understanding of past and present ecosystem dynamics. Evidence for extensive anthropogenic burning of temperate closed-canopy forests prior to European settlement is geographically variable, and the factors responsible for this variability are not well resolved. We set out to explain the differences in the influence of prehistoric human-set fires in seasonally dry forest types in the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand, and northern Patagonia by comparing the fire traits of dominant taxa, postfire vegetation recovery, long-term climate trends, and human activities that may have motivated burning. Our analysis suggests that ecological and climatic factors explain much of the differences in how these mesic-dry forests responded to prehistoric anthropogenic burning. Understanding past human-environment interactions at regional scales is an important step for assessing the impact of biomass burning at all scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-163
Number of pages13
JournalBioScience
Volume65
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 28 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 The Author(s).

Copyright:
Copyright 2015 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Fire history
  • Nothofagus forest fire regimes
  • prehistoric anthropogenic burning
  • Pseudotsuga menziesii
  • vegetation flammability

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