Reconstructing Holocene Fire History in the Southern Appalachians
"Because there are few long-term dendrochronological and lake sediment data for the southern Appalachians, little is known regarding the history of fire this region’s forests through the Holocene. Eighty-two radio-carbon ages for soil charcoal 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 indeed frequent over the past 4,000 years, and their frequency appears to have increased significantly about 1,200 years BP, 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. Difficulties in calculating the inbuilt error associated with estimating actual fire dates from charcoal fragments limit our ability to infer the specifics of and changes in fire regimes during over this time. This will not stop me from speculating about such matters, as well as their management implications."