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

Reconstructing fire history in central Mongolia from tree-rings

Amy E. Hessl A J , Uyanga Ariya B , Peter Brown C , Oyunsannaa Byambasuren B , Tim Green D , Gordon Jacoby E , Elaine Kennedy Sutherland F , Baatarbileg Nachin B , R. Stockton Maxwell G , Neil Pederson E , Louis De Grandpré H , Thomas Saladyga A and Jacques C. Tardif I

A Department of Geology and Geography, West Virginia University, Box 6300, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA.

B Department of Forest Sciences, National University of Mongolia, 14201 Ulaanbaatar 46A/135, Mongolia.

C Rocky Mountain Tree Ring Research, 2901 Moore Lane, Fort Collins, CO 80526, USA.

D Department of Geography, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA.

E Tree-Ring Laboratory, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, POB 1000, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY 10964, USA.

F Missoula Forestry Sciences Laboratory, US Forest Service, 800 East Beckwith, Missoula, MT 59801 USA.

G Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.

H Canadian Forest Service, Laurentian Forestry Centre, 1055 du P.E.P.S, PO Box 10380, Stn. Sainte-Foy, Québec, QC, G1V 4C7, Canada.

I Centre for Forest Interdisciplinary Research (C-FIR), University of Winnipeg, Department of Biology and Environmental Studies, 515 Avenue Portage, Winnipeg, MB R3B 2E9, Canada.

J Corresponding author. Email: amy.hessl@mail.wvu.edu

International Journal of Wildland Fire 21(1) 86-92 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF10108
Submitted: 16 September 2010  Accepted: 2 May 2011   Published: 16 November 2011

Abstract

Rising temperatures are expected to increase wildfire activity in many regions of the world. Over the last 60 years in Mongolia, mean annual temperatures have increased ~2°C and the recorded frequency and spatial extent of forest and steppe fires have increased. Few long records of fire history exist to place these recent changes in a historical perspective. The purpose of this paper is to report on fire history research from three sites in central Mongolia and to highlight the potential of this region as a test case for understanding the relationships between climate change, fire and land use. We collected partial cross-sections from fire-scarred trees and stumps at each site using a targeted sampling approach. All three sites had long histories of fire ranging from 280 to 450 years. Mean Weibull fire return intervals varied from 7 to 16 years. Fire scars at one protected-area site were nearly absent after 1760, likely owing to changes in land use. There is limited synchrony in fire occurrence across sites, suggesting that fire occurrence, at least at annual time scales, might be influenced by local processes (grazing, human ignitions, other land-use factors) as well as regional processes like climate. Additional data are being collected to further test hypotheses regarding climate change, land use and fire.

Additional keywords: climate change, forest-steppe, land use.


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