Climatic Change

, Volume 119, Issue 3–4, pp 693–704 | Cite as

Increased probability of fire during late Holocene droughts in northern New England

Article

Abstract

Understanding the role of fire in the Earth system, and particularly regional controls on its frequency and severity, is critical to risk assessment. Charcoal records from lake sediment and fire-scar networks from long-lived tree species have improved our understanding of long-term relationships between fire events and climate. This work has primarily focused on historically fire-prone ecosystems and regions. In the northeastern USA, where wildfire has been relatively infrequent in historical times, fire-risk assessments have incorporated little-to-no pre-historical data and little is known about long-term fire-climate relationships. We developed coupled, high-resolution records of moisture variability and fire from three ombrotrophic peatlands in Maine using testate amoebae and analysis of microscopic charcoal. Water-table depth reconstructions among the three sites were generally coherent, with high-magnitude dry and wet events corresponding within the uncertainty of age-depth models. At all sites, there was a significantly higher probability of fire events during high-magnitude droughts. However, although prolonged droughts were widespread and associated with higher probability of fire, the fire events were rarely synchronous among sites, with the exception of ~550 years before present (yr BP) when all three sites experienced both drought and fire. While fire has been relatively uncommon in the northeastern USA during the past century, our records clearly highlight the potential vulnerability of the region to future drought and fire impacts. Results also demonstrate the utility of coupled records of fire and climate in understanding regional fire-climate dynamics.

Supplementary material

10584_2013_771_MOESM1_ESM.doc (97 kb)
ESM 1(DOC 97 kb)
10584_2013_771_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (889 kb)
Fig. S1(JPEG 888 kb)
10584_2013_771_MOESM3_ESM.jpg (785 kb)
Fig. S2(JPEG 784 kb)
10584_2013_771_MOESM4_ESM.jpg (814 kb)
Fig. S3(JPEG 814 kb)
10584_2013_771_MOESM5_ESM.jpg (519 kb)
Fig. S4(JPEG 518 kb)
10584_2013_771_MOESM6_ESM.jpg (1.5 mb)
Fig. S5(JPEG 1554 kb)

References

  1. Amesbury MJ, Barber KE, Hughes PDM (2012) The relationship of fine-resolution, multi-proxy palaeoclimate records to meteorological data at Fågelmossen, Värmland, Sweden and the implications for the debate on climate drivers of the peat-based record. Quatern Int 268:77–86. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2011.05.027 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson BT, Hayhoe K, Liang X-Z (2010) Anthropogenic-induced changes in twenty-first century summertime hydroclimatology of the Northeastern US. Clim Chang 99:403–423. doi:10.1007/s10584-009-9674-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blaauw M, Christen JA (2011) Flexible paleoclimate age-depth models using an autoregressive gamma process. Bayesian Anal 3:457–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Booth RK (2008) Testate amoebae as proxies for mean annual water-table depth in Sphagnum-dominated peatlands of North America. J Quaternary Sci 23:43–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Booth RK, Lamentowicz M, Charman DJ (2010) Preparation and analysis of testate amoebae in peatland paleoenvironmental studies. Mires Peat 7:1–7Google Scholar
  6. Booth RK, Jackson ST, Sousa VA, Sullivan ME, Minckley TA, Clifford MJ (2012a) Multidecadal drought and amplified moisture variability drove rapid forest community change in a humid region. Ecology 93:219–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Booth RK, Brewer S, Blaauw M, Minckley TA, Jackson ST (2012b) Decomposing the mid-Holocene Tsuga decline in eastern North America. Ecology 93:1841–1852CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bowman DMJS, Balch JK, Artaxo P, Bond WJ, Carlson JM, Cochrane MA, D’Antonio CM, DeFries RS, Doyle JC, Harrison SP, Johnston FH, Keeley JE, Krawchuk MA, Kull CA, Marston JB, Moritz MA, Prentice IC, Roos CI, Scott AC, Swetnam TW, van der Werf GR, Pyne SJ (2009) Fire in the Earth system. Science 324:481–484. doi:10.1126/science.1163886 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bradshaw LS, Deeming JE, Burgan RE, Cohen JD (1984) The 1978 National Fire-Danger Rating System: technical documentation. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station General Tech. Rep. INT-169, pp 44Google Scholar
  10. Carcaillet C, Bouvier M, Frechette B, Larouche AC, Richard PJH (2001a) Comparison of pollen-slide and sieving methods in lacustrine charcoal analyses for local and regional fire history. Holocene 11:467–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carcaillet C, Bergeron Y, Richard PJH, Frechette B, Gauthier S, Prairie YT (2001b) Change of fire frequency in the eastern Canadian boreal forests during the Holocene: does vegetation composition or climate trigger the fire regime? J Ecol 89:930–946CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Charman DJ (2007) Summer water deficit variability controls on peatland water-table changes: implications for Holocene palaeoclimate reconstructions. Holocene 17:217–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Charman DJ, Blundell A, Chiverrell RC, Hendon D, Langdon PF (2006) Compilation of non-annually resolved Holocene proxy climate records: stacked Holocene peatland paleo-water table reconstructions from northern Britain. Quaternary Sci Rev 25:336–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clark JS (1988) Particle motion and the theory of charcoal analysis: source area, transport, deposition, and sampling. Quat Res 30:81–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clark JS, Royall PD (1995) Particle-size evidence for source areas of charcoal accumulation in Late Holocene sediments of eastern North American lakes. Quat Res 43:80–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Clark JS, Royall PD, Chumbley C (1996) The role of fire during climate change in an Eastern deciduous forest at Devil’s Bathtub, New York. Ecology 77:2148–2166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Clark JS, Lynch J, Stocks BJ, Goldammer JG (1998) Relationships between charcoal particles in air and sediments in west-central Siberia. Holocene 8:19–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cogbill CV, Burk J, Motzkin G (2002) The forests of pre-settlement New England, USA: spatial and compositional patterns based on town proprietor surveys. J Biogeogr 29:1279–1304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Colombaroli D, Gavin DG (2010) Highly episodic fire and erosion regime over the past 2000 years in the Siskiyou Mountains, Oregon. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 44:18909–18914. doi:10.1073/pnas.1007692107 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dale VH, Joyce LA, McNulty S, Neilson RP, Ayres MA, Flannigan MD, Hanson PJ, Irland LC, Lugo AE, Peterson CJ, Simberloff D, Swanson FJ, Stocks BJ, Wotton BM (2001) Climate change and forest disturbances. BioScience 51:723–734CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Easterling DR, Meehl GA, Parmesan C, Changnon SA, Karl TR, Mearns LO (2000) Climate extremes: observations, modeling, and impacts. Science 289:2068–2074. doi:10.1126/science.289.5487.2068 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fahey TJ, Reiners WA (1981) Fire in the forests of Maine and New Hampshire. Bull Torrey Bot Club 108:362–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Foster DR, Zebryk TM (1993) Long-term vegetation dynamics and disturbance history of a Tsuga-dominated forest in New England. Ecology 74:982–998CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Foster DR, Clayden S, Orwig DA, Hall B, Barry S (2002) Oak, chestnut and fire: climatic and cultural controls of long-term forest dynamics in New England, USA. J Biogeogr 29:1359–1379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. French NHF, de Groot WJ, Jenkins LK, Rogers BM, Alvarado E, Amiro B, de Jong B, Goetz S, Hoy E, Hyer E, Keane R, Law BE, McKenzie D, McNulty SG, Ottmar R, Pérez–Salicrup DR, Randerson J, Robertson KM, Turetsky M (2011) Model comparisons for estimating carbon emissions from North American wildland fire. J Geophys Res 116:G00K05. doi:10.1029/2010JG001469 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Frumhoff PC, McCarthy JJ, Melillo JM, Moser SC, Wuebbles DJ (2007) Confronting climate change in the U.S. Northeast: science, impacts, and solutions. Synthesis report of the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA), Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Cambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  27. Fuller JL, Foster DR, McLachlan JS, Drake N (1998) Impact of human activity on regional forest composition and dynamics in central New England. Ecosystems 1:76–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gavin DG, Hu FS, Lertzman KP, Corbett P (2006) Weak climatic control of forest fire history during the late Holocene. Ecology 87:1722–1732CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gillett NP, Weaver AJ, Zwiers FW, Flannigan MD (2004) Detecting the effect of climate change on Canadian fires. Geophys Res Lett 31:L18211. doi:10.1029/2004GL020876 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Goring SJ, Williams JW, Blois JL, Jackson ST, Paciorek CJ, Booth RK, Marlon JR, Blaauw M, Christen JA (2012) Deposition times in the northeastern United States during the Holocene: establishing valid priors for Bayesian age models. Quaternary Sci Rev 48:54–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hansen J, Sato M, Ruedy R (2012) Perception of climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109:E2415–E2423. doi:10.1073/pnas.120527610 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hotchkiss SC, Calcote R, Lynch EA (2007) Response of vegetation and fire to Little Ice Age climate change: regional continuity and landscape heterogeneity. Landsc Ecol 22:25–41. doi:10.1007/s10980-007-9133-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Innes JB, Blackford JJ, Simmons IG (2004) Testing the integrity of fine spatial resolution palaeoecological records: microcharcoal data from near-duplicate peat profiles from the North York Moors, UK. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 214:295–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kitzberger T, Brown PM, Heyerdahl EK, Swetnam TW, Veblen TT (2007) Contingent Pacific–Atlantic Ocean influence on multicentury wildfire synchrony over western North America. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104:543–548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Krawchuk MA, Moritz MA (2011) Constraints on global fire activity vary across a global resource gradient. Ecology 92:121–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Littell JS, McKenzie D, Peterson DL, Westerling AL (2009) Climate and wildfire area burned in western U.S. ecoprovinces 1916–2003. Ecol Appl 19:1003–1021CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lorimer CG (1977) The presettlement forest and natural disturbance cycle of northeastern Maine. Ecology 58:139–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Maine Forest Service (2010) Maine state forest assessment and strategies, Maine Forest Service, Department of Conservation. Augusta, Maine, pp 225Google Scholar
  39. Meehl GA, Tebaldi C (2004) More intense, more frequent, and longer lasting heat waves in the 21st century. Science 304:994–997CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Moritz MA, Parisien M-A, Batllori E, Krawchuk MA, Van Dorn J, Ganz DJ, Hayhoe K (2012) Climate change disruptions to global fire activity. Ecosphere 3:49. doi:10.1890/ES11-00345.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Munoz SE, Gajewski K, Peros MC (2010) Synchronous environmental and cultural change in the prehistory of the northeastern United States. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 21:22008–22013. doi:10.1073/pnas.1005764107 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nichols JA, Huang Y (2012) Hydroclimate of the northeastern United States is highly sensitive to solar forcing. Geophysical Research Letters 39: L04707. doi:10.1029/2011GL050720
  43. Overpeck J, Udall B (2010) Dry times ahead. Science 328:1642–1643. doi:10.1126/science.1186591 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Parshall T, Foster DR (2002) Fire on the New England landscape: regional and temporal variation, cultural and environmental controls. J Biogeogr 29:1305–1317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Parshall T, Foster DR, Faison E, MacDonald D, Hansen BCS (2003) Long-term history of vegetation and fire in pitch pine-oak forests on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Ecology 84:736–748CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Payne RJ, Mitchell EAD (2009) How many is enough? Determining optimal count totals for ecological and paleoecological studies of testate amoebae. J Paleolimnol 42:483–495CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pederson N, Bell A, Cook E, Lall U, Devineni N, Seager R, Eggleston K, Vranes K (2013) Is an epic pluvial masking the water insecurity of the greater New York City Region? J Clim 26:1339–1354. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00723.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Power MJ et al (2008) Changes in fire regimes since the Last Glacial Maximum: an assessment based on global synthesis and analysis of charcoal data. Clim Chang 30:887–907Google Scholar
  49. Priesler HK, Westerling AL (2007) Statistical model for forecasting monthly large wildfire events in Western United States. J Appl Meteorol Clim 46:1020–1030. doi:10.1175/JAM2513.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rius D, Vannière B, Galop D, Richard H (2011) Holocene fire regime changes from multiple-site sedimentary charcoal analyses in the Lourdes basin (Pyrenees, France). Quaternary Sci Rev 30:1696–1709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Roos CI, Swetnam TW (2012) A 1416-year reconstruction of annual, multidecadal, and centennial variability in area burned for ponderosa pine forests of the Southern Colorado Plateau region. Southwest USA. Holocene 22:281–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Shuman B, Henderson AK, Plank C, Stefanova I, Ziegler SS (2009) Woodland-to-forest transition during prolonged drought in Minnesota after ca. AD 1300. Ecology 90:2792–2807CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Solomon S, Plattner G-K, Knutti R, Friedlingstein P (2009) Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106:1704–1709. doi:10.1073/pnas.0812721106 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Swetnam TW, Betancourt JL (1990) Fire-Southern Oscillation relations in the southwestern United States. Science 249:1017–1020CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Swetnam TW, Allen CD, Betancourt JL (1999) Applied historical ecology: using the past to manage for the future. Ecol Appl 9:1189–1206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Swindles GT, Morris PJ, Baird AJ, Blaauw M, Plunkett G (2012) Ecohydrological feedbacks confound peat-based climate reconstructions. Geophys Res Lett 39:L11401. doi:10.1029/2012GL051500 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Talon B, Payette S, Fillon L, Delwaide A (2005) Reconstruction of the long-term fire history of an old-growth deciduous forest in Southern Quebec, Canada, from charred wood in mineral soils. Quaternary Res 64:36–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tinner W, Hu FS (2003) Size parameters, size-class distribution and area-number relationship of microscopic charcoal: relevance for reconstruction. Holocene 13:499–505. doi:10.1191/0959683603hl615rp CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Tinner W, Conedera M, Ammann B, Gaggeler HW, Gedye S, Jones R, Sagesser B (1998) Pollen and charcoal in lake sediments compared with historically documented forest fires in Southern Switzerland since AD 1920. Holocene 8:31–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tinner W, Hofstetter S, Zeugin F, Conedera M, Wohlgemuth T, Zimmermann L, Zweifel R (2006) Long-distance transport of macroscopic charcoal by an intensive crown fire in the Swiss Alps-Implications for fire history reconstruction. Holocene 16:287–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Trouet V, Taylor AH, Wahl ER, Skinner CN, Stephens SL (2010) Fire-climate interactions in the American West since 1400 CE. Geophys Res Lett 37:L04702. doi:10.1029/2009GL041695 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tweiten MA, Hotchkiss SC, Booth RK, Calcote RR, Lynch EA (2009) The response of a jack pine forest to late-Holocene climate variability in northwestern Wisconsin. The Holocene 19:1049–1061Google Scholar
  63. United States Forest Service (2010) Northeast Wildfire Risk Assessment. NWRA Steering Committee, Geospatial Working Group, pp 18Google Scholar
  64. van der Werf GR, Randerson JT, Giglio L, Collatz GJ, Mu M, Kasibhatla PS, Morton DC, DeFries RS, Jin Y, van Leeuwen TT (2010) Global fire emissions and the contribution of deforestation, savanna, forest, agricultural, and peat fires (1997–2009). Atmos Chem Phys Discuss 10:11707–11735. doi:10.5194/acpd-10-16153-2010 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Westerling AL, Gershunov A, Brown TJ, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD (2003) Climate and wildfires in the western United States. B Am Meteorol Soc 84:595–604CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Westerling AL, Hildalgo HG, Cayan DR, Swetnam TW (2006) Warming and earlier spring increase western U.S. forest wildfire activity. Science 313:940–943. doi:10.1126/science.1128834 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Yang H, Zhang Q (2008) Anatomizing the ocean’s role in ENSO changes under global warming. J Clim 21:6539–6555. doi:10.1175/2008JCLI2324.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earth and Environmental Science DepartmentBethlehemUSA

Personalised recommendations