Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments

, Volume 94, Issue 2, pp 271–278 | Cite as

Wildfires in the late Palaeozoic and Mesozoic of the Southern Alps—the Anisian and Ladinian (Mid Triassic) of the Dolomites (Northern Italy)

  • Dieter UhlEmail author
  • Christoph Hartkopf-Fröder
  • Ralf Littke
  • Evelyn Kustatscher
Original Paper


Based on anatomical studies of fossil charcoal fragments the first evidence for palaeo-wildfires is presented for the Anisian and Ladinian of the Dolomites (Northern Italy). These charcoals are from the localities Kühwiesenkopf/Monte Prà della Vacca (middle-upper Pelsonian, upper Anisian) and Ritberg/Ju Rit (Longobardian, upper Ladinian), and they help to fill a gap in our current scientific knowledge on the fossil record of Triassic wildfires worldwide. Charcoal reflectance values from Kühwiesenkopf are surprisingly high, indicating a palaeo-wildfire temperature of approximately 650 °C.


Mid Triassic Anisian Ladinian Palaeo-wildfire Charcoal gap 



This article is dedicated to Johanna HA van Konijnenburg-van Cittert on the occasion of her 70th birthday. The work on this paper started in 2005 when one of the authors (DU) worked at the former Laboratory of Palaeobotany and Palynology of the University of Utrecht and Han was involved in a study (with EK) of the Mid Triassic floras of the Dolomites. We thank Claudia Franz, Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum Frankfurt, for technical assistance with SEM facilities, as well as Guido Roghi (Istituto di Geoscienze e Georisorse, Padova) and Sarah Brown (Royal Holloway, University of London; Egham) for their most constructive reviews, which helped to improve the manuscript. This paper is part of the project “The Permian-Triassic ecological crisis in the Dolomites: extinction and recovery dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems” funded by the Promotion of Educational Policies, University and Research Department of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano–South Tyrol. EK acknowledges financial support from the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation (3.3-ITA/1141759STP).


  1. Abu Hamad AMB, Jasper A, Uhl D (2012) The record of Triassic charcoal and other evidence for palaeo-wildfires: signal for atmospheric oxygen levels, taphonomic biases or lack of fuel? Int J Coal Geol 96–97:60–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abu Hamad AMB, Jasper A, Uhl D (2013) Charcoal remains from the Mukheiris Formation of Jordan—the first evidence of palaeowildfire from the Anisian (Middle Triassic) of Gondwana. Jordan J Earth Env Sci 5:17–22Google Scholar
  3. Bechstädt T, Brandner R (1970) Das Anis zwischen St. Vigil und dem Höhlensteintal (Pragser-und Olanger Dolomiten, Südtirol). Festband des Geol Inst 300-Jahr-Feier Univ. Innsbruck 9–103Google Scholar
  4. 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 324:481–484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Broglio-Loriga C, Fugagnoli A, van Konijnenburg-van Cittert JHA, Kustatscher E, Posenato R, Wachtler M (2002) The Anisian macroflora from the Northern Dolomites (Kühwiesenkopf / Monte Pra della Vacca, Braies): a first report. Riv Ital Paleontol Stratigr 108:381–389Google Scholar
  6. Cook AC, Smyth M, Vos RG (1985) Source potential of upper Triassic fluvio-delta systems of the Exmouth Plateau. APPEA J 1985:204–215Google Scholar
  7. Edwards GE (1975) Marketable resources of Australian coal. In: Australian Black Coal, Cook AC (ed.) The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Carlton, Melbourne, pp 85–108Google Scholar
  8. Fugagnoli A, Posenato R (2004) Middle Triassic (Anisian) benthic Foraminifera from the Monte Prà della Vacca/Kühwiesenkopf section (Dont Formation, Braies Dolomites, Northern Italy). Boll Soc Paleontol Ital 43:347–360Google Scholar
  9. Glasspool IJ, Scott AC (2013) Identifying past fire events. In: Belcher CM (ed.), Fire phenomena and the Earth system: An interdisciplinary guide to fire science. John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, pp 179–206 Google Scholar
  10. Glasspool IJ, Edwards D, Axe L (2004) Charcoal in the Silurian as evidence for the earliest wildfire. Geology 32:381–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Grauvogel-Stamm L (1978) La flore du Grès à Voltzia (Buntsandstein supérieur) des Vosges du Nord (France). Morphologie, anatomie, interprétations phylogénétique et paléogéographie. Sci Geol Mem 50:255Google Scholar
  12. Jones TP, Scott AC, Cope M (1991) Reflectance measurements and the temperature of formation of modern charcoals and implications for studies of fusain. Bull Soc Geol Fr 162:193–200Google Scholar
  13. Kelber K-P (2007) Die Erhaltung und paläobiologische Bedeutung der fossilen Hölzer aus dem süddeutschen Keuper (Trias, Ladinium bis Rhätium). In: Aus Holz wird Stein–Kieselhölzer aus dem Keuper Frankens, Schüssler H, Simon T (eds). Offsetdruck Eppe GmbH, Bergatreute-Aulendorf, pp 37–100Google Scholar
  14. Kumar M, Tewari R, Chatterjee S, Mehrotra NC (2011) Charcoalified plant remains from the Lashly Formation of Allan Hills, Antarctica: evidence of forestfire during the Triassic Period. Episodes 34:109–118Google Scholar
  15. Kustatscher E, Roghi G (2006) Anisian palynomorphs from the Dont Formation of Kühwiesenkopf / Monte Prà della Vacca section (Braies Dolomites, Italy). Micropaleontologist 52:223–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kustatscher E, van Konijnenburg-van Cittert JHA (2005) The Ladinian Flora (Middle Triassic) of the Dolomites: palaeoenvironmental reconstructions and palaeoclimatic considerations. Geo.Alp 2:31–51Google Scholar
  17. Kustatscher E, Manfrin S, Mietto P, Posenato R, Roghi G (2006) New biostratigraphic data on Anisian (Middle Triassic) palynomorphs from the Dolomites (Italy). Rev Palaeobot Palynol 140:79–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kustatscher E, Wachtler M, van Konijnenburg-van Cittert JHA (2007) Horsetails and seedferns from the Middle Triassic (Anisian) locality Kühwiesenkopf (Monte Prà della Vacca) in the Dolomites (Northern Italy). Palaeontology 50:1277–1298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kustatscher E, van Konijnenburg-van Cittert JHA, Roghi G (2010a) Macrofloras and palynomorphs as possible proxies for palaeoclimatic and palaeoecological studies: a case study of Kühwiesenkopf / Monte Prà della Vacca (Olang Dolomites, N-Italy). Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 291:71–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kustatscher E, Wachtler M, van Konijnenburg-van Cittert JHA (2010b) Lycophytes from the Middle Triassic (Anisian) locality Kühwiesenkopf (Monte Prà della Vacca) in the Dolomites (Northern Italy). Palaeontology 53:595–626CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mancuso AC (2009) Taphonomic analysis in lacustrine environments: two different contexts for Triassic lake paleofloras from Western Gondwana (Argentina). Sediment Geol 222:149–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mangerud G, Rømuld A (1991) Spathian–Anisian (Triassic) palynology at the Svalis Dome, southwestern Barents Sea. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 70:199–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mietto P, Manfrin S (1995) A high resolution Middle Triassic ammonoid standard scale in the Tethys Realm. A preliminary report. Bull Soc Geol Fr 166:539–563Google Scholar
  24. Nichols G, Cripps J, Collinson ME, Scott AC (2000) Experiments in waterlogging and sedimentology of charcoal: results and implications. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 164:43–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. O'Keefe JMK, Bechtel A, Christanis K, Dai S, DiMichele WA, Eble CF, Esterle JS, Mastalerz M, Raymond AL, Valentim BV, Wagner NJ, Ward CR, Hower JC (2013) On the fundamental difference between coal rank and coal type. Int J Coal Geol 118:58–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Roghi G (1995a) Analisi palinologica del Trias medio del Sudalpino. PhD thesis. University of Padova, PadovaGoogle Scholar
  27. Roghi G (1995b) Analisi palinologica della sezione di Stuores Wiesen (Prati di Stuores, Dolomiti): dati preliminari. - In: Loriga Broglio C, Neri C (eds.): Verso una definizione del limite Ladinico-Carnico nel Sudalpino orientale. Ann Univ Ferrara 5[Suppl]:37–40Google Scholar
  28. Sachse VF, Littke R, Heim S, Kluth O, Schober J, Boutib L, Jabour H, Perssen F, Sindern S (2011) Petroleum source rocks of the Tarfaya Basin and adjacent areas, Morocco. Org Geochem 42:209–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schimper WP, Mougeot A (1844) Monographie des Plantes fossiles du Grès Bigarrés de la chaine des Vosges. LeipzigGoogle Scholar
  30. Schlüter H, Schmidt H (1927) Voltzia, Yuccites und andere neue Funde aus dem südhannoverschen Buntsandstein. N Jb Min Geol Paläont 57B:12–27Google Scholar
  31. Scott AC (1989) Observations on the nature and origin of fusain. Int J Coal Geol 12:443–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Scott AC (2000) The Pre-quaternary history of fire. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 164:297–345Google Scholar
  33. Scott AC (2010) Charcoal recognition, taphonomy and uses in palaeoenvironmental analysis. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 291:11–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Scott AC, Glasspool IJ (2007) Observations and experiments on the origin and formation of inertinite group macerals. Int J Coal Geol 70:53–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Taylor GH, Teichmüller M, Davis A, Diessel CFK, Littke R, Robert P (1998) Organic petrology. Borntraeger, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  36. Tintori A, Posenato R, Kustatscher E, Wachtler M (2001) New Triassic fish faunas from paralic environments in the Alps. In: 3rd Int Meeting on Mesozoic Fishes. Serpiano, p. 66Google Scholar
  37. Tscherny R (2006) Numerische Simulation der thermischen Evolution und Beckenentwicklung des permo-mesozoischen Südalpins (Dolomiten) entlang der TransAlp-Traverse. Verlagshaus Mainz, AachenGoogle Scholar
  38. Tscherny RG, Littke R, Büker C, Nöth S, Uffmann AK (2012) Coalification of dispersed organic matter in the Dolomites, Italy: implications for burial and thermal history. Geo.Alp 9:186–203Google Scholar
  39. Uhl D, Jasper A, Schindler T, Wuttke M (2010) Evidence of paleowildfire in the early Middle Triassic (early Anisian) Voltzia Sandstone: the oldest post-Permian macroscopic evidence of wildfire discovered so far. Palaios 25:837–842CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Uhl D, Butzmann R, Fischer TC, Meller B, Kustatscher E (2012) Wildfires in the late Palaeozoic and Mesozoic of the Southern Alps—The Late Permian of the Bletterbach-Butterloch area (Northern Italy). Riv Ital Paleontol Stratigr 118:223–233Google Scholar
  41. Van der Eem JGLA (1983) Aspects of middle and Late Triassic palynology. 6. Palynological investigations in the Ladinian and lower Karnian of theWestern Dolomites, Italy. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 39:189–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Van Konijnenburg-Van Cittert JHA, Kustatscher E, Wachtler M (2006) Pteridophytes from the Anisian locality Kühwiesenkopf (Dolomites, Northern Italy). Palaeontology 49:943–968CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dieter Uhl
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Christoph Hartkopf-Fröder
    • 3
  • Ralf Littke
    • 4
  • Evelyn Kustatscher
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und NaturmuseumFrankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment, Institut für GeowissenschaftenUniversität TübingenTübingenGermany
  3. 3.Geological Survey North Rhine–WestphaliaKrefeldGermany
  4. 4.Institute of Geology and Geochemistry of Petroleum and Coal, Energy and Mineral Resources Group (EMR)RWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  5. 5.Naturmuseum SüdtirolBozenItaly
  6. 6.Department für Geo- und Umweltwissenschaften, Paläontologie und GeobiologieLudwig-Maximilians-UniversitätMunichGermany

Personalised recommendations