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Fire history in a southern Appalachian deciduous forestAuthor(s): Norman L., Jr. Christensen; Kurt Fesenmeyer
Source: In: Dey, Daniel C.; Stambaugh, Michael C.; Clark, Stacy L.; Schweitzer, Callie J., eds. Proceedings of the 4th fire in eastern oak forests conference; 2011 May 17-19; Springfield, MO. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-102. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 3-11.
Publication Series: Proceedings - Paper (PR-P)
Station: Northeastern Research Station
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DescriptionBecause there are few long-term dendrochronological and lake sediment data for the southern Appalachians, little is known regarding the history of fire in this region's forests through the Holocene. Radio-carbon ages for 82 soil charcoal samples collected from local depositional sites along a topographic gradient from mixed hardwood (Liriodendron tulipifera and Quercus spp.) to oak-pine (Quercus prinus and Pinus rigida) forest provide a coarse-grained picture of changes in fire frequency within a 10-ha area during the Holocene. Fires were frequent over the past 4,000 years, and their frequency appears to have increased significantly about 1,200 years before present (YBP), coinciding with the advent of the Mississippian Native American culture in this region. Our results are consistent with the widely held view that fires have become less frequent in this region over the past 250 years. The inbuilt error associated with estimating actual fire dates from charcoal fragments inherently limits our ability to infer the specifics of and changes in fire regime over time. Notwithstanding these uncertainties, it is clear that fire has been an important part of eastern deciduous forest ecosystems through much of the Holocene. Nevertheless, fire regimes and forest composition have likely changed during this time owing to changes in human activities and climate. These facts have important consequences for restoration and fire management.
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CitationChristensen, Norman L., Jr.; Fesenmeyer, Kurt. 2012. Fire history in a southern Appalachian deciduous forest. In: Dey, Daniel C.; Stambaugh, Michael C.; Clark, Stacy L.; Schweitzer, Callie J., eds. Proceedings of the 4th fire in eastern oak forests conference; 2011 May 17-19; Springfield, MO. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-102. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 3-11.
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