Canadian Forest Service Publications

Guidelines for the use and interpretation of palaeofire reconstructions based on various archives and proxies. 2018. Remy, C.; Fouquemberg, C.; Asselin, H.; Andrieux, B.; Magnan, G.; Brossier, B.; Grondin, P.; Bergeron, Y.; Talon, B.; Girardin, M.; Blarquez, O.; Bajolle, L.; Ali, A.A. Quaternary Science Reviews 193: 312-322.

Year: 2018

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 39206

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2018.06.010

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We present a comparative analysis of fire reconstructions from tree rings and from wood charcoal preserved in forest soils, peat and lake sediments. Our objective is to highlight the benefits and limits of different archives and proxies to reconstruct fire histories. We propose guidelines to optimize proxy and archive choice in terms of spatial and temporal scales of interest. Comparisons were performed for two sites in the boreal forest of northeastern North America. Compared to others archives, tree-ring analysis remains the best choice to reconstruct recent fires (<1000 years). For longer periods (from several centuries to millennia), lake charcoal can be used to reconstruct regional or local fire histories depending on the method used, but the focus should be on historical trends rather than on the identification of individual fire events. Charcoal preserved in peat and soils can be used to identify individual fire, but sometimes cover shorter time periods than lake archives.

Plain Language Summary

In this article, the researchers compared various methods of reconstructing fire history of the boreal forest of North America. The main results are the following:

  • The analysis of tree rings has proven to be the best method for reconstructing recent fire history (less than 1,000 years);
  • For periods over 1,000 years ago, the analysis of charcoal from lake bottoms is the best method;
  • To determine the history of a specific fire, the study of charcoal in mosses and soils is the most appropriate method.