Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp 51–66 | Cite as

Florida wildfires during the Holocene Climatic Optimum (9000–5000 cal yr BP)

  • Kalindhi Larios Mendieta
  • Stefan Gerber
  • Mark Brenner
Original paper


Fire is a key ecological driver in terrestrial ecosystems of the southeastern United States. The combination of plant species composition and fire poses the possibility of positive feedback loops in a landscape. How fire regimes will change in the future with global warming is uncertain. To better understand the main factors that control fire, Holocene fire history was studied using macroscopic charcoal (as a fire proxy) in sediment cores from two shallow lakes in north Florida, USA. Following the onset of lacustrine sedimentation in the early Holocene, there was a 95% decline in average charcoal concentration, from 28.3 to 1.4 charcoal particles cm−3, at ~ 7500 cal yr BP in a 3.9-m core from Newnans Lake (basal age: 8870 cal yr BP). At ~ 7000 cal yr BP in a 5.4-m core from nearby Lochloosa Lake (basal age: 9280 cal yr BP), particle density declined by 99%, from 113.8 to 1.4 charcoal particles cm−3. These declines in charcoal concentration are not artifacts of changes in bulk sedimentation, i.e. dilution, but instead reflect lower charcoal production. Newnans Lake and Lochloosa Lake averaged ~ 8.93 and ~ 40.42 charcoal particles cm−3, respectively over their entire records. Pollen records from the two study lakes do not display the Quercus to Pinus shift during the Holocene Climatic Optimum (9000–5000 cal yr BP) observed previously in cores from many studied lakes in the region. Instead, pine pollen, as a percentage of total oak and pine pollen, was high (> 50%) through the entire Holocene. Pine and oak pollen counts and the variety of arboreal pollen, however, were lower in early Holocene deposits. No relation was found between pine and oak percentages and macroscopic charcoal quantity, i.e. before, during, or after charcoal peaks. There were, however, qualitative differences between pollen assemblages within charcoal-rich and charcoal-poor depth intervals. Early to middle Holocene sediments contained pollen of Quercus spp., Pinus spp., Ambrosia sp., Amaranthaceae, Cyperaceae and Poaceae. Late Holocene sediments contained hydric and mesic pollen types including Taxodium spp., Carya sp., Ilex sp., and Liquidambar styraciflua. The flat, poorly drained topography around both lakes played a role in shaping Holocene plant communities and probably explains why a Quercus-to-Pinus shift seen elsewhere in Florida did not occur in the study region.


Macroscopic charcoal Pollen Florida Fire history Holocene Climatic Optimum 



We thank Drs. Jason Curtis and William Kenney for sediment coring assistance at Newnans Lake and Lochloosa Lake. The Lochloosa sediment core was obtained under a contract from the St. Johns River Water Management District. Interpretations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the District. We thank Drs. Hongshan Wang and Steven Manchester for providing advice on pollen sampling procedures, as well as Dr. Jack Putz for feedback throughout this study. We are grateful to anonymous reviewers, Dr. Sally Horn, and Co-Editor-in-Chief Dr. Thomas Whitmore for their constructive comments, which improved the manuscript. Kalindhi Larios was supported by the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Florida while conducting this research.

Supplementary material

10933_2018_23_MOESM1_ESM.docx (73 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 72 kb)


  1. Antal MJ, Gronli M (2003) The art, science, and technology of charcoal production. Ind Eng Chem Res 42:1619–1640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beedlow PA, Tingey DT, Phillips DL, Hogsett WE, Olszyk DM (2004) Rising atmospheric CO2 and carbon sequestration in forests. Front Ecol Environ 2:315–322Google Scholar
  3. Berglund BE (1986) Handbook of Holocene Paleoecology and Paleohydrology. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Binford M (1990) Calculation and uncertainty analysis of 210Pb dates for PIRLA project lake sediment cores. J Paleolimnol 3:253–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blaauw M, Andres Christen J (2011) Flexible paleoclimate age-depth models using an autoregressive gamma process. Bayesian Anal 6:457–474Google Scholar
  6. Bond WJ, Keeley JE (2005) Fire as a global ‘herbivore’: the ecology and evolution of flammable ecosystems. Trends Ecol Evol 20:387–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bowman DM, 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 324:481–484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brenner M, Whitmore TJ (1998) Historical sediment and nutrient accumulation rates and past water quality in Newnans Lake. Final Report for St. Johns River Water Management District, Palatka, FL, 85 pGoogle Scholar
  9. Carvalho EO, Kobziar LN, Putz FE (2011) Fire ignition patterns affect production of charcoal in southern forests. Int J Wildland Fire 20:474–477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clark JS (1988) Particle motion and the theory of charcoal analysis—source area, transport, deposition, and sampling. Quat Res 30:67–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 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
  12. Dollison RM (2010) The National map: new viewer, services, and data download: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2010-3055.
  13. Dressler RL, Hall DW, Perkins KD, Williams NH (1987) identification manual for wetland plant species of Florida. Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, GainesvilleGoogle Scholar
  14. Faegri K, Kaland PE, Krzywinski K (1992) Textbook of pollen analysis. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. Fisher MM, Brenner M, Reddy KR (1992) A simple, inexpensive piston corer for collecting undisturbed sediment/water interface profiles. J Paleolimnol 7:157–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Flannigan MD, Stocks BJ, Wotton BM (2000) Climate change and forest fires. Sci Total Environ 262:221–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Florida Natural Areas Inventory (2012) Florida cooperative land cover map, version 2.3. Tallahassee, Florida.
  18. Folland C, Karl T, Vinnikov KYA (1990) Observed climate variations and change. Climate change. The IPCC scientific assessment. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  19. Fowler C, Konopik E (2007) The history of fire in the southern United States. Human Ecol Rev 14:165–176Google Scholar
  20. Goring S, Dawson A, Simpson GL, Ram K, Graham RW, Grimm EC, Williams JW (2015) Neotoma: a programmatic interface to the Neotoma Paleoecological Database. Open Quat 1:1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grimm EC, Jacobson GL, Watts WA, Hansen BCS, Maasch KA (1993) A 50,000-year record of climate oscillations from Florida and its temporal correlation with the Heinrich events. Science 261:198–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Grimm EC, Watts WA, Jacobson GL Jr, Hansen B, Almquist HR, Dieffenbacher-Krall AC (2006) Evidence for warm wet Heinrich events in Florida. Quat Sci Rev 25:2197–2211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gundale MJ, DeLuca TH (2006) Temperature and source material influence ecological attributes of ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir charcoal. Forest Ecol Manag 231:86–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Harley GL, Grissino-Mayer HD, Horn SP (2013) Fire history and forest structure of an endangered subtropical ecosystem in the Florida Keys, USA. Int J Wildland Fire 22:394–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Higuera PE, Whitlock C, Gage JA (2011) Linking tree-ring and sediment-charcoal records to reconstruct fire occurrence and area burned in subalpine forests of Yellowstone National Park, USA. Holocene 21:327–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Higuera-Gundy A, Brenner M, Hodell DA, Curtis JH, Leyden BW, Binford MW (1999) A 10,300 C-14 yr record of climate and vegetation change from Haiti. Quat Res 52:159–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Holly JB (1976) Stratigraphy and sedimentation history of Newnans Lake. Unpublished Master’s thesis, Department of Geology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FLGoogle Scholar
  28. Hua Q, Barbetti M, Rakowski AZ (2013) Atmospheric radiocarbon for the period 1950–2010. Radiocarbon 55:2059–2072CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Huffman JM, Platt WJ (2004) Fire history of a barrier island slash pine (Pinus elliottii) savanna. Nat Areas J 24:258–268Google Scholar
  30. Jarzen DM (2006) Guide to the operations and procedures adopted in the palynology laboratory. Florida Museum of Natural History, GainesvilleGoogle Scholar
  31. Karl TR, Melillo JM, Peterson TC (2009) Global climate change impacts in the United States. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  32. Kenney WF, Whitmore TJ, Buck DG, Brenner M, Curtis JH, Di JJ, Kenney PL, Schelske CL (2014) Whole-basin, mass-balance approach for identifying critical phosphorus-loading thresholds in shallow lakes. J Paleolimnol 51:515–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kenney WF, Brenner M, Elliott Arnold T, Curtis JH (2016) Sediment cores from shallow lakes preserve reliable, informative paleoenvironmental archives despite hurricane-force winds. Ecol Indic 60:963–969CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kocis DL (2012) Reconstruction of fire history in the national key deer refuge, Monroe County, Florida, U.S.A.: The Palmetto Pond Macroscopic Charcoal Record. M.S. thesis, Department of Geography, University of Tennessee, KnoxvilleGoogle Scholar
  35. Laux K (2012) Effects of hydrologic changes and precipitation on tree island fire frequency in the everglades, Florida. M.S. thesis, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of South Florida, St. PetersburgGoogle Scholar
  36. Marcott SA, Shakun JD, Clark PU, Mix AC (2013) A reconstruction of regional and global temperature for the past 11,300 years. Science 339:1198–1201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Masson-Delmotte V, Schulz M, Abe-Ouchi A, Beer J, Ganopolski A, González Rouco JF, Jansen E, Lambeck K, Luterbacher J, Naish T, Osborn T, Otto-Bliesner B, Quinn T, Ramesh R, Rojas M, Shao X, Timmermann A (2014) Information from Paleoclimate Archives. In: Stocker T, Qin D, Plattner GK, Tignor M, Allen SK, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V, Midgley PM (eds) Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group i to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 383–464Google Scholar
  38. Myers, RL (1985) Fire and the dynamic relationship between Florida sandhill and sand pine scrub vegetation. Bull Torrey Bot Club 112:241–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Myers RL, Ewel JJ (1990) Ecosystems of Florida. University of Central Florida Press, OrlandoGoogle Scholar
  40. R Development Core Team (2013) A language and environment for statistical computing. Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
  41. Raffuse SM, Craig KJ, Larkin NK, Strand TT, Sullivan DC, Wheeler NJM, Solomon R (2012) An evaluation of modeled plume injection height with satellite-derived observed plume height. Atmosphere 3:103–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Reimer PJ, Bard E, Bayliss A, Beck JW, Blackwell PG, Bronk Ramsey C, Buck CE, Cheng H, Edwards RL, Friedrich M (2013) IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0-50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55:1869–1887CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. St. Johns River Water Management District (2010) Orange Creek Restoration Area land management plan. St. Johns River Water Management District, Palatka, FL, pp 1-77 Accessed online Oct. 26, 2017,
  44. St. Johns River Water Management District (2011) Orange Creek Basin surface water improvement and management plan. St. Johns River Water Management District, Palatka, FL, pp 1–146. Accessed 26 Oct 2017
  45. St. Johns River Water Management District (2013) Newnans Lake Conservation Area Land Management Plan. St. Johns River Water Management District, Palatka, FL, pp 1–96. Accessed 26 Oct 2017
  46. Staver AC, Archibald S, Levin SA (2011) The global extent and determinants of savanna and forest as alternative biome states. Science 334:230–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Stocker T, Qin D, Plattner G, Tignor M, Allen S, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V, Midgley P (2013) IPCC, 2013: climate change 2013, the physical science basis. contribution of working group i to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp i–1523Google Scholar
  48. Tinner W, Bigler C, Gedye S, Gregory-Eaves I, Jones RT, Kaltenrieder P, Krahenbuehl U, Hu FS (2008) A 700-year paleoecological record of boreal ecosystem responses to climatic variation from Alaska. Ecology 89:729–743CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Traverse A (2007) Paleopalynology, 2nd edn. Springer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  50. Van Lear DH, Carroll WD, Kapeluck PR, Johnson R (2005) History and restoration of the longleaf pine-grassland ecosystem: implications for species at risk. Forest Ecol Manag 211:150–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Waldrop TA, White DL, Jones SM (1992) Fire regimes for pine-grassland communities in the southeastern United States. Forest Ecol Manag 47:195–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Walker MJC, Berkelhammer M, Bjorck S, Cwynar LC, Fisher DA, Long AJ, Lowe JJ, Newnham RM, Rasmussen SO, Weiss H (2012) Discussion paper by a working group in INTIMATE (integration of ice-core, marine, and terrestrial records) and the subcommission on quaternary stratigraphy (international commission on stratigraphy). J Quat Sci 27:649–659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Watts WA (1969) A pollen diagram from Mud Lake Marion county north-central Florida. Geol Soc Am Bull 80:631–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Watts WA (1975) A late Quaternary record of vegetation from Lake Annie, south-central Florida. Geology 3:344–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Watts WA (1980) Late quaternary vegetation history of the southeastern USA. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 11:387–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Watts WA, Hansen BCS (1988) Environments of Florida in the late Wisconsin and Holocene. In: Purdy BA (ed) Wet site archaeology. Telford Press, Caldwell, pp 307–324Google Scholar
  57. Watts WA, Stuiver M (1980) Late Wisconsin climate of northern Florida and the origin of species-rich deciduous forest. Science 210:325–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Watts WA, Hansen BCS, Grimm EC (1992) Camel Lake - a 40,000-yr record of vegetational and forest history from northwest Florida. Ecology 73:1056–1066CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wheeler RJ, Miller JJ, McGee RM, Ruhl D, Swann B, Memory M (2003) Archaic period canoes from Newnans Lake, Florida. Am Antiq 68:533–551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Whitlock C, Larsen C (2001) Charcoal as a fire proxy. In: Smol JP, Birks HJB, Last WM (eds) Tracking environmental change using lake sediments, vol 3. Terrestrial, algal, and siliceous indicators. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 75–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Whitlock C, Marlon J, Briles C, Brunelle A, Long C, Bartlein P (2008) Long-term relations among fire, fuel, and climate in the north-western US based on lake-sediment studies. Int J Wildland Fire 17:72–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Whitlock C, Higuera PE, McWethy DB, Briles CE (2010) Paleoecological perspectives on fire ecology: revisiting the fire-regime concept. Open Ecol J 3:6–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Whitmore TJ, Brenner M, Schelske CL (1996) Highly variable sediment distribution in shallow, wind-stressed lakes: a case for sediment-mapping surveys in paleolimnological studies. J Paleolimnol 15:207–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Soil and Water SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geological Sciences and Land Use and Environmental Change InstituteUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations