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Temporal and Spatial Patterns of Fire in the Southern Appalachian Mountians
2:40 PM - 3:00 PM
Tue Nov 28, 2017
Citron North


Authors: Charles W. Lafon; Adam T. Naito; Henri D. Grissino-Mayer; Sally P. Horn; Thomas A. Waldrop;

The Appalachian wildfires of 2016 occurred within the context of a long history of fire. That history includes the fire regimes that developed through the Holocene under changing climates, human societies, and vegetation. These past fire regimes can be reconstructed through proxy evidence, as demonstrated by the foregoing presentation on the use of soil charcoal to portray several millennia of fires in the Great Smoky Mountains. In this presentation, we continue the sketch of past Appalachian fire regimes by examining proxy evidence from multiple sites. We primarily emphasize dendroecological data from fire-scarred trees. These data indicate that fires occurred frequently in the past. Fires had recurred at short intervals (a few years) for centuries before the fire-exclusion era, and they were especially common and spatially extensive on landscapes with large expanses of oak and pine forest, notably in the Ridge and Valley province and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Burning favored oak and pine at the expense of mesophytic competitors, but fire exclusion has enabled mesophytic plants to expand from fire-sheltered sites onto dry slopes that formerly supported pyrogenic vegetation.

Charles W Lafon
Professor, Texas A&M University

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