Holocene development of Boreal forests and fire regimes on the Kenai Lowlands of Alaska

Anderson, R.S., Hallett, D.J., Berg, E., Jass, R.B., Toney, J.L. , de Fontaine, C.S. and DeVolder, A. (2006) Holocene development of Boreal forests and fire regimes on the Kenai Lowlands of Alaska. Holocene, 16(6), pp. 791-803. (doi:10.1191/0959683606hol966rp)

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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1191/0959683606hol966rp

Abstract

Several studies have noted a relationship between vegetation type and fire frequency, yet despite the importance of ecosystem processes such as fire the long-term relationships between disturbance, climate and vegetation type are incompletely understood. We analysed pollen, plant macrofossils and sedimentary charcoal from three lakes within the Kenai lowlands to determine postglacial relationships between disturbance, climate and vegetation for the Boreal forest of southwest Alaska. An herb tundra was established in the lowlands following deglaciation by 13 000 cal. BP. Salix, Alnus and probably Betula kenaica, expanded in the area after 10 700 cal. BP, followed by Picea glauca by 8500 cal. BP. Picea mariana became established by 4600 cal. BP. The early Holocene was probably the driest time during the postglacial, as determined by aquatic plant macrofossils and climate models. Lake levels reached near-modern conditions by at least 8000 cal. BP. Mean Fire Intervals (MFI) were longest during the shrub-herb tundra phase (138±65 yr), decreased after expansion of B. kenaica, Salix and Populus (77±49 yr) and Picea glauca (81±41 yr), and increased again with the arrival of P. mariana (130±66 yr). Unlike previous studies, our data demonstrate the highest fire frequencies during the early to mid-Holocene and less frequent fire during the late Holocene when P. mariana forests dominated the lowlands. Early Holocene forests of P. glauca and B. kenaica existed in summers that were longer and drier than today, while the increasingly wetter and cooler climates of the late Holocene probably hindered forest fire around Paradox Lake, perhaps because of less frequent summer drought.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Toney, Professor Jaime
Authors: Anderson, R.S., Hallett, D.J., Berg, E., Jass, R.B., Toney, J.L., de Fontaine, C.S., and DeVolder, A.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Holocene
ISSN:0959-6836
ISSN (Online):1477-0911

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