Recent fire regime in the southern boreal forests of western Siberia is unprecedented in the last five millennia

Feurdean, A ORCID:, Florescu, G ORCID:, Tanţău, I, Vannière, B, Diaconu, A-C, Pfeiffer, M, Warren, D, Hutchinson, SM ORCID:, Gorina, N, Gałka, M and Kirpotin, S 2020, 'Recent fire regime in the southern boreal forests of western Siberia is unprecedented in the last five millennia' , Quaternary Science Reviews, 244 , p. 106495.

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Wildfires in Siberia are documented to have increased in frequency and severity over recent decades. However, in the absence of long-term records, it is unclear how far and why this trend deviates from centennial to millennial scale variability. Here we reconstruct past patterns of fire frequency and fire type, and explore how the fire-related traits of boreal species and plant functional types (PFTs) determine ecosystem responses to changing fire regimes. We use charcoal-based reconstructions of the fire regime in combination with a pollen-based assessment of vegetation composition in two boreal forest peat profiles from Plotnikovo Mire in western Siberia that span the last 2400 and 5000 years. We found moderate levels of biomass burning between 5000 and 4000 cal yr BP. Biomass burning and fire severity i.e., more biomass burning per fire episode, increased over the last 1500 cal yr BP associated with the dominance of fire invaders (Betula). Conversely, between 4000 and 1500 cal yr BP lower biomass burning, with perhaps fire types affecting mostly litter and understorey vegetation, coincided with the dominance of fire resisters (e.g., Pinus sylvestris, P. sibirica, Larix) intermixed with a considerable number of fire avoiders (e.g., Abies sibirica and Picea obovata). This long-term perspective shows that the current fire regime commenced 1500 years ago and deviates from the trends observed over the last 5000 years. This deviation is linked to a combination of climate conditions conducive to fire, the amount and composition of woody fuels, and land use changes. Although pines reacted more sensitively to increased fire severity, the fire avoider Picea obovata appears to be much more vulnerable to both frequent, severe fires than Abies sibirica. We anticipate that climatically driven changes in fire weather, with frequent warm and dry spells, and anthropogenic land use intensification will heighten fire severity and their impact, driving vegetation composition towards Betula species to the detriment of Picea obovata. This study also shows that charcoal morphotypes can provide useful information on fuel and fire type, and that, although all macro-charcoal size classes reliably indicate local-scale fires, the larger fraction (>300–500 μm) allows the identification of on-site fire episodes. We recommend multi-site palaeo-fire reconstructions in boreal peatlands to adequately reflect the influence of localised peat moisture content, and vegetation composition and structure variability on the small-scale heterogeneity of fire type and spread. This will ensure that trends in fire regime dynamics are representative and not limited to the local scale. We also propose future directions in fire research that can be tested using fossil records of fire, climate and vegetation ideally in an interdisciplinary approach.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences
Journal or Publication Title: Quaternary Science Reviews
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0277-3791
Related URLs:
Funders: German Research Foundation
Depositing User: USIR Admin
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2020 08:55
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 21:46

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