Integrating fire-scar, charcoal and fungal spore data to study fire events in the boreal forest of northern Europe

Authors

Normunds Stivrins, Tuomas Aakala, Liisa Ilvonen, Leena Pasanen, Timo Kuuluvainen, Harri Vasander, Mariusz Gałka, Helena R Disbrey, Janis Liepins, Lasse Holmström, Heikki Seppä

Abstract

Fire is a major disturbance agent in the boreal forest, influencing many current and future ecosystem conditions and services. Surprisingly few studies have attempted to improve the accuracy of fire-event reconstructions even though the estimates of the occurrence of past fires may be biased, influencing the reliability of the models employing those data (e.g. C stock, cycle). This study aimed to demonstrate how three types of fire proxies – fire scars from tree rings, sedimentary charcoal and, for the first time in this context, fungal spores of Neurospora – can be integrated to achieve a better understanding of past fire dynamics. By studying charcoal and Neurospora from sediment cores from forest hollows, and the fire scars from tree rings in their surroundings in the southern Fennoscandian and western Russian boreal forest, we produced composite fire-event data sets and fire-event frequencies, and estimated fire return intervals. Our estimates show that the fire return interval varied between 126 and 237 years during the last 11,000 years. The highest fire frequency during the 18th–19th century can be associated with the anthropogenic influence. Importantly, statistical tests revealed a positive relationship between other fire event indicators and Neurosporaoccurrence allowing us to pinpoint past fire events at times when the sedimentary charcoal was absent, but Neurospora were abundant. We demonstrated how fire proxies with different temporal resolution can be linked, providing potential improvements in the reliability of fire history reconstructions from multiple proxies.

Additional

Date: June 11, 2019

Integrating fire-scar, charcoal and fungal spore data to study fire events in the boreal forest of northern Europe
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