Canadian Forest Service Publications

Integrating paleoecology into landscape management. 2018. Brown, K.J.; Power, M.J.; Hebda, N.J.R. Pages 1137-1145 in D.X. Viegas, editor. Proceedings of the VIII International Conference on Forest Fire Research, November 9-16, 2018, Coimbra, Portugal. Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal.

Year: 2018

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40175

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.14195/978-989-26-16-506_127

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Paleoecology has traditionally been used to examine how ecosystems evolve through time. Focusing on fossil plant reconstructions, conventional approaches examine the origin, expansion, contraction, and dynamic processes influencing plant communities over time. Recognizing that vegetation types are predominately influenced by climate, paleoecological records are frequently used to reconstruct climate through time, using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. In addition to examining vegetation and climate, evidence from natural disturbances, including charred plant remains from wilfires deposited in lake sediments, has increased in recent decades, enabling researchers to examine fire dynamics. Increasingly, there is growing urgency to integrate paleoecological studies and landscape management, rendering unique spatial (local to global) and temporal (years to millennia) perspectives that offer valuable insights for land managers today. This manuscript presents a suggested framework to acheive this goal, with emphasis on integrating paleofire data and managment applications. The framework illustrates several potential applications by scale, including direct local-scale applications within a managed municipal watershed, and medium-to-long-term perspectives on the causes and consequences of large fire events in forested ecosystems.

Plain Language Summary

Paleoecologists study the ecology of fossil animals and plants. They are increasingly seeking to integrate their findings into the management of present-day landscapes. For example, sediments contain evidence of past wildfires, such as the fossilized remains of charred plants. This information can provide valuable insight into current and future fires. In this conference proceeding, we suggest a framework outlining the ways that paleoecological data can be used in modern landscape management. For example, records of single extreme fire events provide information on factors that led to the fires and the responses of the landscape to the fires. Over time scales of years to decades, paleo data provide information about the interaction between climate, vegetation, and fire (e.g., the historical effects of drought on fire risk). Over time scales of centuries to millennia, paleo studies can be used to understand the evolution of landscapes over periods that predate human-built systems (e.g., fires that occur on average every 300 years). In a detailed example of the value of paleoecological research to landscape managers, we describe how the managers of a municipal watershed in British Columbia initiated a paleoecological investigation to understand how fire activity has changed within the watershed over time.