Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2021-36
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2021-36

  29 Apr 2021

29 Apr 2021

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

Reconstructing burnt area during the Holocene: an Iberian case study

Yicheng Shen1,2,3, Luke Sweeney1,2, Mengmeng Liu3, Jose Antonio Lopez Saez4, Sebastián Pérez-Díaz5, Reyes Luelmo-Lautenschlaeger4, Graciela Gil-Romera6, Dana Hoefer7, Gonzalo Jiménez-Moreno8, Heike Schneider9, I. Colin Prentice1,3, and Sandy P. Harrison1,2 Yicheng Shen et al.
  • 1Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society, Imperial College London, South Kensington, London, SW7 2BW, UK
  • 2Geography & Environmental Science, Reading University, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AH, UK
  • 3Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Buckhurst Road, Ascot SL5 7PY, UK
  • 4Instituto de Historia, Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid, Spain
  • 5Department of Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, University of Cantabria, Santander, Spain
  • 6Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología-CSIC, Avda. Montañana 1005, 50059, Zaragoza, Spain
  • 7Senckenberg Research Station of Quaternary Palaeontology, Am Jakobskirchhof 4, 99423 Weimar, Germany
  • 8Departamento de Estratigrafía y Paleontología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Granada, Avda. Fuente Nueva S/N, 18002 Granada, Spain
  • 9Institut für Geographie, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Löbdergraben 32, 07743 Jena, Germany

Abstract. Charcoal accumulated in lake, bog or other anoxic sediments through time has been used to document the geographical patterns in changes in fire regimes. Such reconstructions are useful to explore the impact of climate and vegetation changes on fire during periods when the human influence was less prevalent than today. However, charcoal records only provide semi-quantitative estimates of change in biomass burning. Here we derive quantitative estimates of burnt area from vegetation data in two stages. First, we relate the modern charcoal abundance to burnt area using a conversion factor derived from a generalized linear model of burnt area probability based on eight environmental predictors. Then, we establish the relationship between fossil pollen assemblages and burnt area using Tolerance-weighted Weighted Averaging Partial Least-Squares with sampling frequency correction (fxTWA-PLS). We test this approach using the Iberian Peninsula as a case study because it is a fire-prone region with abundant pollen and charcoal records covering the Holocene. We derive the vegetation-burnt area relationship using the 29 records that have both modern and fossil charcoal and pollen data, and then reconstruct palaeo-burnt area for the 114 records with Holocene pollen records. The pollen data predict charcoal abundances through time relatively well (R2 = 0.47) and the changes in reconstructed burnt area are synchronous with known climate changes through the Holocene. This new method opens up the possibility of reconstructing changes in fire regimes quantitatively from pollen records, which are far more numerous than charcoal records.

Yicheng Shen et al.

Status: open (until 18 Jul 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on cp-2021-36', Anonymous Referee #1, 03 May 2021 reply
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Yicheng Shen, 03 Jun 2021 reply
  • CC1: 'Comment on cp-2021-36', Paulo Fernandes, 04 May 2021 reply
    • CC2: 'Reply on CC1', Yicheng Shen, 03 Jun 2021 reply
    • AC2: 'Reply on CC1', Yicheng Shen, 03 Jun 2021 reply

Yicheng Shen et al.

Yicheng Shen et al.

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Short summary
We present a method to reconstruct burnt area using a relationship between pollen and charcoal abundances, and calibration of charcoal abundance using modern observations of burnt area. We use this method to reconstruct changes in burnt area over the past 12,000 years from sites in Iberia. We show that regional changes in burnt area reflect known changes in climate, with high burnt area during warming intervals and low burnt area when the climate was cooler and/or wetter than today.