International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

Fire History in Interior Ponderosa Pine Communities of the Black Hills, South Dakota, USA

PM Brown and CH Sieg

International Journal of Wildland Fire 6(3) 97 - 105
Published: 1996


Chronologies of fire events were reconstructed from crossdated fire-scarred ponderosa pine trees for four sites in the south-central Black Hills. Compared to other ponderosa pine forests in the southwest US or southern Rocky Mountains, these communities burned less frequently. For all sites combined, and using all fires detected, the mean fire interval (MFI), or number of years between fire years, was 16 years (± 14 SD) for the period 1388 to 1900. When a yearly minimum percentage of trees recording scars of ≥ 25% is imposed, the MFI was 20 years (± 14 SD). The length of the most recent fire-free period (104 years, from 1890 to 1994) exceeds the longest intervals in the pre-settlement era (before ca. 1874), and is likely the result of human-induced land use changes. Based on fire scar position within annual rings, most past fires occurred late in the growing season or after growth had ceased for the year. These findings have important implications for management of ponderosa pine forests in the Black Hills and for understanding the role of fire in pre-settlement ecosystem function.

Keywords: Pinus ponderosa; Dendrochronology; Crossdating; Fire scars; Fire chronology; Mean fire interval

© IAWF 1996

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