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Detecting local-scale fire episodes on pollen slides Hugo Asselin *, Serge Payette

Summary: Detecting local-scale fire episodes on pollen slides
Hugo Asselin *, Serge Payette
NSERC Northern Research Chair, Centre d'e´tudes nordiques, Universite´ Laval, Que´bec (Que´bec), Canada, G1K 7P4
Received 8 October 2004; received in revised form 4 August 2005; accepted 26 August 2005
Assessment of the impacts of future climate change on the boreal forest and forest­tundra biomes relies on a clear understanding
of their past dynamics. Fire history information recorded in lake and peat sediments can be retrieved by counting charcoal particles
on pollen slides, although it is still debated whether this is reliable at the scale of the watershed (i.e. local scale). Knowing that
proportionately larger charcoal particles tend to settle closer to the fire compared to smaller particles, a new method of quantifying
microscopic charcoal on pollen slides is presented, taking into account the size distribution of the charcoal fragments in each
sample of a sediment core (the CSD method). The late-Holocene fire history of the surroundings of a small subarctic lake was
reconstructed using this method and compared with results from four other methods (macroscopic charcoal counts, charcoal
concentration, charcoal:pollen ratio, charcoal:Picea ratio). All methods were tested for accuracy by comparison with the fire
history of the watershed reconstructed by dendrochronology and radiocarbon-dated soil charcoal. Only the CSD method allowed
separation of local-scale fire episodes from background noise attributable to long-distance dispersal.
D 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: charcoal size distribution; forest fires; forest­tundra; local fires; pollen slides
1. Introduction
In order to better assess the potential impacts of
future climate change on forests, it is important to


Source: Asselin, Hugo - Chaire de recherche du Canada en foresterie autochtone, Département des sciences du développement humain et social, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue


Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology