Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2021-26
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2021-26

  22 Mar 2021

22 Mar 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

5 kyr of fire history in the High North Atlantic Region: natural variability and ancient human forcing

Delia Segato1,2, Maria Del Carmen Villoslada Hidalgo1,2,3, Ross Edwards4, Elena Barbaro1,2, Paul Vallelonga5,6, Helle Astrid Kjær5, Marius Simonsen5, Bo Vinther5, Niccolò Maffezzoli1,2, Roberta Zangrando1,2, Clara Turetta1,2, Dario Battistel1,2, Orri Vésteinsson7, Carlo Barbante1,2, and Andrea Spolaor1,2 Delia Segato et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Via Torino 155, 30170 Mestre, Italy
  • 2CNR-Institute of Polar Sciences (ISP-CNR), Via Torino 155, 30170 Mestre, Italy
  • 3CIC nanoGUNE BRTA, Tolosa Hiribidea 76, 20018 San Sebastian, Spain
  • 4Curtin University, Kent St, Bentley WA 6102, Australia
  • 5Centre for Ice and Climate, Physics of Ice, Climate and Earth, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 6UWA Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, Crawley WA 6009, Australia
  • 7University of Iceland, Archaeology Department, University of Iceland, Archaeology Department, Sæmundargata 2, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

Abstract. Biomass burning influences global atmospheric chemistry by releasing greenhouse gases and climate-forcing aerosols. There is controversy about the magnitude and timing of Holocene changes in biomass burning emissions from millennial to centennial time scales and, in particular, on the possible impact of ancient civilizations. Here we present a 5 kyr record of fire activity proxies levoglucosan, black carbon and ammonium measured in the RECAP ice core, drilled in the coastal East Greenland and therefore affected by processes occurring in the High North Atlantic Region. Levoglucosan and ammonium fluxes show high levels from 5 to 4.5 kyr followed by an abrupt decline, possibly due to monotonic decline in Northern Hemisphere summer insolation. Levoglucosan and black carbon show an abrupt decline at 1.1 kyr BP (before 2000 AD), suggesting a decline in wildfire regime in the Icelandic territory due to the extensive land clearing caused by Viking colonizers. A minimum is reached at 0.5 kyr BP for all fire proxies, after which levoglucosan and ammonium fluxes increase again, in particular over the last 200 years. We find that the fire regime reconstructed from RECAP fluxes seems mainly related to climatic changes, however over the last millennium human activities might have had a substantial influence controlling the occurrence of fire.

Delia Segato et al.

Status: open (until 19 May 2021)

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Delia Segato et al.

Delia Segato et al.

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Short summary
Human influence on fire regime in the past is poorly understood, especially at high latitudes. We present 5 kyr of fire proxies levoglucosan, black carbon and ammonium in the RECAP ice core in Greenland and reconstruct for the first time fire regime in the High North Atlantic Region, which comprises coastal East Greenland and Iceland. Climate is the main driver of fire regime, however at 1.1 kyr BP a contribution may be given by the deforestation resulting from Viking colonization of Iceland.