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Holocene fire in Fennoscandia and Denmark

Jennifer L. Clear A C D , Chiara Molinari B and Richard H. W. Bradshaw C

A Department of Forest Ecology, Czech University of Life Sciences, Kamýcka 129, CZ-16521 Prague, Czech Republic.
B Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University, S-22362 Lund, Sweden.
C Present address: Department of Geography and Planning, University of Liverpool, Chatham Street, Liverpool, L69 7ZT, UK.
D Corresponding author. Email: clear@fld.czu.cz

International Journal of Wildland Fire - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF13188
Submitted: 8 November 2013  Accepted: 21 March 2014   Published online: 29 July 2014


 
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Abstract

Natural disturbance dynamics, such as fire, have a fundamental control on forest composition and structure. Knowledge of fire history and the dominant drivers of fire are becoming increasingly important for conservation and management practice. Temporal and spatial variability in biomass burning is examined here using 170 charcoal and 15 fire scar records collated throughout Fennoscandia and Denmark. The changing fire regime is discussed in relation to local biogeographical controls, regional climatic change, anthropogenic land use and fire suppression. The region has experienced episodic variability in the dominant drivers of biomass burning throughout the Holocene, creating a frequently changing fire regime. Early Holocene biomass burning appears to be driven by fuel availability. Increased continentality during the mid-Holocene Thermal Maximum coincides with an increase in fire. The mid–late Holocene front-like spread of Picea abies (Norway spruce) and cooler, wetter climatic conditions reduce local biomass burning before the onset of intensified anthropogenic land use, and the late Holocene increase in anthropogenic activity created artificially high records of biomass burning that overshadowed the natural fire signal. An economic shift from extensive subsistence land use to agriculture and forestry as well as active fire suppression has reduced regional biomass burning. However, it is proposed that without anthropogenic fire suppression, the underlying natural fire signal would remain low because of the now widespread dominance of P. abies.

Additional keywords: biomass burning, climate change, fire suppression, slash and burn.


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