Journal Article

Past and Present Vulnerability of Closed-Canopy Temperate Forests to Altered Fire Regimes: A Comparison of the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand, and Patagonia

Cathy Whitlock, David B. McWethy, Alan J. Tepley, Thomas T. Veblen, Andrés Holz, Matt S. McGlone, George L. W. Perry, Janet M. Wilmshurst and Samuel W. Wood

in BioScience

Volume 65, issue 2, pages 151-163
Published in print February 2015 | ISSN: 0006-3568
Published online December 2014 | e-ISSN: 1525-3244 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biu194
Past and Present Vulnerability of Closed-Canopy Temperate Forests to Altered Fire Regimes: A Comparison of the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand, and Patagonia

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The relative importance of people and climate in shaping prehistoric fire regimes is debated around the world, and this discussion has helped inform our understanding of past and present ecosystem dynamics. Evidence for extensive anthropogenic burning of temperate closed-canopy forests prior to European settlement is geographically variable, and the factors responsible for this variability are not well resolved. We set out to explain the differences in the influence of prehistoric human-set fires in seasonally dry forest types in the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand, and northern Patagonia by comparing the fire traits of dominant taxa, postfire vegetation recovery, long-term climate trends, and human activities that may have motivated burning. Our analysis suggests that ecological and climatic factors explain much of the differences in how these mesic–dry forests responded to prehistoric anthropogenic burning. Understanding past human–environment interactions at regional scales is an important step for assessing the impact of biomass burning at all scales.

Keywords: fire history; vegetation flammability; prehistoric anthropogenic burning; Pseudotsuga menziesii; Nothofagus forest fire regimes

Journal Article.  9386 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental Science ; Biological Sciences ; Environment

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