Cathy Whitlock

Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, United States

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Publications (71)258.04 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Key uncertainties in anticipating future fire regimes are their sensitivity to climate change, and the degree to which climate will impact fire regimes directly, through increasing the probability of fire, versus indirectly, through changes in vegetation and landscape flammability.We studied the sensitivity of subalpine forest fire regimes (i.e., fire frequency, fire severity) to previously documented climate variability over the past 6000 years, utilizing pollen and macroscopic charcoal from high-resolution lake-sediment records in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. We combined data from the four lakes to provide composite records of vegetation and fire history within a 200 km2 study area.Rates of forest burning were relatively complacent to millennial-scale summer cooling and decreased effective moisture. Mean return intervals between fire episodes, defined over 500-year periods, generally varied between 150-250 years, consistent with tree-ring-based estimates spanning recent centuries. Variability around these long-term means, however, was significantly correlated with variability in summer moisture (i.e., more burning with drier summers), inferred from existing lake-level and supporting palaeoenvironmental records.The most pronounced change in fire regimes was in response to decreased subalpine forest density ca. 2400 cal. year BP, itself a response to regional cooling. This indirect impact of climate was followed by a decrease in charcoal production per fire, a proxy for crown-fire severity, while the long-term rate of burning remained unchanged. Over the last 1500 years, increased summer evaporation and drought frequency were associated with increased fire severity, highlighting a direct link between fire and climate.Synthesis: Subalpine forest fire history reveals complacency and sensitivity of fire regimes to changing vegetation and hydroclimate over the past 6000 years. Complacency is highlighted by non-varying fire frequency over millennia. Sensitivity is evident through changes in biomass burned per fire (and inferred fire severity), in response to climate-induced changes in forest density and, more recently, increased summer drought. Overall, the palaeo record suggests that (i) fire severity may be more responsive to climate change than fire frequency in Rocky Mountain subalpine forests, and (ii) the indirect impacts of climate on vegetation and fuels are important mechanisms determining fire-regime response to climate change.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Journal of Ecology 07/2014; · 5.43 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Patagonian vegetation has dramatically changed in composition and distribution over the last 23,000 years. Although the vegetation history has been inferred from individual pollen records, the regional patterns and drivers of vegetation development are poorly understood. High resolution pollen and charcoal data from eleven sites located along the eastern flanks of the Patagonian Andes (41–43°S) were examined to reconstruct the Lateglacial and Holocene vegetation and fire history of steppe/forest ecotone and separate the relative influence of climatic versus non-climatic factors in shaping the patterns of ecological change. Pollen data indicate that, as the Lateglacial climate became progressively wetter, the initial steppe vegetation was replaced by open forest of Nothofagus in the Lateglacial and early Holocene periods, and by closed forest in the late Holocene. Fire activity was lowest during the Lateglacial/early-Holocene transition and gradually increased through the Holocene. Prior to ca 5000 cal yr BP, the conifer Austrocedrus chilensis possibly persisted in isolated populations along the eastern boundary of its modern distribution. Cooler/more humid conditions after ca 5000 cal yr BP allowed the development of the modern mixed Nothofagus–Austrocedrus forest. The paleoenvironmental record points to the sensitivity of the forest/steppe ecotone in the past, not only to climate but also to complex environmental feedbacks that amplified the effects of climate change.
    Quaternary Science Reviews 01/2014; 94:120–135. · 4.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Increased levels of burning in the past 40 years are raising public and scientific concern about the relative importance of rising temperatures, climate variability, and human actions including management practices in initiating and supporting recent conflagrations. Enormous fires in Australia, North America, Europe, and Russia since 2000 have resulted in billions of dollars in property damage, loss of life, and threats to human and ecological health. Levels of fire activity are expected to increase in the coming decades in many regions as temperatures continue to rise and droughts intensify [Moritz et al., 2012]. Linked disturbances such as bark beetle infestations, nonnative plant invasions, and mass-wasting events have also exacerbated the effects of fire in many ecosystems.
    Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union. 11/2013; 94(46).
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    ABSTRACT: Natural factors and human activity influence fire variability including changes in temperature and precipitation, increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, altering ignitions, vegetation cover and fuel availability. Ice cores archive chemical signatures of both past climate and fire activity, and understanding this interaction is increasingly important in a warming climate. The specific molecular marker levoglucosan (1,6-anhydro-ß-D-glucopyranose) can only be produced by burning woody tissue at temperatures greater than 300°C. Levoglucosan is present in the fine fraction of smoke plumes, is transported distances of thousands of kilometers, is deposited on glacier surfaces, and is detectable in both polar and mountain ice cores providing an unambiguous fire history. Here, we present a high-resolution 10,000-year levoglucosan record in the EPICA Dome C (75°06'S, 123°21'E, 3233 masl) ice core and implications for determining natural and human-caused fire variability. A recent provocative hypothesis by Ruddiman suggests that humans may have had a significant impact on the Earth's climate thousands of years ago through carbon and methane emissions originating from biomass burning associated with early agriculture. This hypothesis is centered on the observation that atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane levels recorded in ice cores increased irrespective of insolation changes beginning 7,000 to 5,000 years before present. The EDC levoglucosan record does not demonstrate augmented fire activity at 5000 and/or 7000 years ago in the Southern Hemisphere. We are currently determining Holocene levoglucosan concentrations in the NEEM, Greenland (77°27' N; 51°3'W, 2454 masl) ice core to provide a Northern Hemisphere comparison at 5000 and/or 7000 years ago. The highest EDC Holocene fire activity occurs during the past 500 years. Mean levoglucosan concentrations between 500 to 10,000 BP are approximately 50 ppt, but rise to 300 ppt at present. This substantial increase is not present in NEEM. Unlike methane and its isotopic signatures, levoglucosan is not a globally mixed marker, and these hemispheric differences are consistent with the atmospheric lifetime, sources, and transport of levoglucosan. This considerable increase in fire activity over the past 500 years is also present in Southern Hemisphere compilations of charcoal records. The EDC levoglucosan profile is most similar to regional charcoal compilations from New Zealand and southeastern Australia. Transport models demonstrate the possibility of New Zealand and Australia as major levoglucosan sources to EDC. This contemporary biomass burning increase is likely due to human activity as opposed to the Holocene background levels between 500 to 10,000 BP.
    04/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Patagonian vegetation has dramatically changed in composition and distribution over the last 16,000 yr. Although patterns of vegetation change are relatively clear, our understanding of the processes that produce them is limited. High-resolution pollen and charcoal records from two lakes located at lat 41°S provide new information on the postglacial history of vegetation and fire activity at the forest–steppe ecotone, and help clarify the relative importance of local and regional drivers of late-Holocene ecological change. Our results suggest that late-glacial parkland was colonized by shrubs at ca. 11,200 cal yr BP and this vegetation persisted until 4900 cal yr BP, when increased humidity allowed for the establishment of Nothofagus forest. The late Holocene is characterized by oscillations in forest dominance largely driven by changes in humidity, possibly associated with the onset or strengthening of ENSO. In the last 4900 yr, humid periods (4900–3800 and 2850–1350 cal yr BP) have promoted Nothofagus forest, whereas drier times (3800–2850 and 1350–450 cal yr BP) have favored Austrocedrus expansion. At intermediate moisture levels, however, the lower forest supported both taxa, and fire became an important control of community composition, with severe, infrequent fires facilitating Nothofagus regeneration and high fire frequency and intensity supporting Austrocedrus.
    Quaternary Research 11/2012; 78(3):502–512. · 2.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Along the eastern Andes, a sharp ecotone separates steppe from North Patagonian forest dominated by Nothofagus spp. and Austrocedrus chilensis. The longitudinal position of the ecotone is largely determined by effective moisture, which in turn is partly governed by the strength and latitudinal position of the Southern Westerlies. As a result, changes in the ecotone provide an opportunity to examine past climate variations. Holocene environmental history at two sites in close proximity is inferred from pollen and high-resolution charcoal data. Prior to 9000 cal. yr BP, vegetation resembled a steppe, in accordance with widespread aridity. Fires were infrequent, likely as a consequence of fuel discontinuity associated with low vegetation cover. At 9000 cal. yr BP, forest taxa expanded into steppe and fires became frequent, indicating that summers were arid enough to support fires but winter moisture was sufficient for Nothofagus spp. to expand. A two-step increase in effective moisture is inferred for the middle Holocene. The first step occurred at 8500 cal. yr BP, as interpreted from the increase in A. chilensis in the region, probably as a consequence of an eastward migration from glacial refugia. The second step at 5500 cal. yr BP is based on a Nothofagus spp. expansion into the steppe. Steppe readvances into the forest between 5250 and 3000 cal. yr BP indicate decreased temperatures and/or effective moisture. The last 3000 years are characterized by expansions of A. chilensis and an eastward shift of the ecotone, suggesting more humid conditions. European settlement is reflected in the establishment of non-native species and disturbance-adapted taxa.
    The Holocene 11/2012; 22(11):1297-1307. · 3.22 Impact Factor
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    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2012; 109(34):E2243; author reply E2245-7. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A 9400-yr-old record from Crevice Lake, a semi-closed alkaline lake in northern Yellowstone National Park, was analyzed for pollen, charcoal, geochemistry, mineralogy, diatoms, and stable isotopes to develop a nuanced understanding of Holocene environmental history in a region of northern Rocky Mountains that receives both summer and winter precipitation. The limited surface area, conical bathymetry, and deep water (> 31 m) of Crevice Lake create oxygen-deficient conditions in the hypolimnion and preserve annually laminated sediment (varves) for much of the record. Pollen data indicate that the watershed supported a closed Pinus-dominated forest and low fire frequency prior to 8200 cal yr BP, followed by open parkland until 2600 cal yr BP, and open mixed-conifer forest thereafter. Fire activity shifted from infrequent stand-replacing fires initially to frequent surface fires in the middle Holocene and stand-replacing events in recent centuries. Low values of δ18O suggest high winter precipitation in the early Holocene, followed by steadily drier conditions after 8500 cal yr BP. Carbonate-rich sediments before 5000 cal yr BP imply warmer summer conditions than after 5000 cal yr BP. High values of molybdenum (Mo), uranium (U), and sulfur (S) indicate anoxic bottom-waters before 8000 cal yr BP, between 4400 and 3900 cal yr BP, and after 2400 cal yr BP. The diatom record indicates extensive water-column mixing in spring and early summer through much of the Holocene, but a period between 2200 and 800 cal yr BP had strong summer stratification, phosphate limitation, and oxygen-deficient bottom waters. Together, the proxy data suggest wet winters, protracted springs, and warm effectively wet summers in the early Holocene and less snowpack, cool springs, warm dry summers in the middle Holocene. In the late Holocene, the region and lake experienced extreme changes in winter, spring, and summer conditions, with particularly short springs and dry summers and winters during the Roman Warm Period (~ 2000 cal yr BP) and Medieval Climate Anomaly (1200–800 cal yr BP). Long springs and mild summers occurred during the Little Ice Age, and these conditions persist to the present. Although the proxy data indicate effectively wet summer conditions in the early Holocene and drier conditions in the middle and late Holocene, none point specifically to changes in summer precipitation as the cause. Instead, summer conditions were governed by multi-seasonal controls on effective moisture that operated over multiple time scales.
    Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 05/2012; 331–332(1):90–103. · 2.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Deciphering the evolution of global climate from the end of the Last Glacial Maximum approximately 19 ka to the early Holocene 11 ka presents an outstanding opportunity for understanding the transient response of Earth's climate system to external and internal forcings. During this interval of global warming, the decay of ice sheets caused global mean sea level to rise by approximately 80 m; terrestrial and marine ecosystems experienced large disturbances and range shifts; perturbations to the carbon cycle resulted in a net release of the greenhouse gases CO(2) and CH(4) to the atmosphere; and changes in atmosphere and ocean circulation affected the global distribution and fluxes of water and heat. Here we summarize a major effort by the paleoclimate research community to characterize these changes through the development of well-dated, high-resolution records of the deep and intermediate ocean as well as surface climate. Our synthesis indicates that the superposition of two modes explains much of the variability in regional and global climate during the last deglaciation, with a strong association between the first mode and variations in greenhouse gases, and between the second mode and variations in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2012; 109(19):E1134-42. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: At the time of Māori settlement, ca. 750 years ago, New Zealand's ecosystems experienced catastrophic change, including the introduction of fire to ignition‐limited ecosystems and the resulting widespread loss of forest. While high‐resolution sediment‐charcoal analyses suggest this forest loss was rapid, Māori populations were small and transient during the Initial Burning Period and there is evidence for widespread fire activity in places where there is little archaeological evidence of human presence. These observations beg the question ‘how did small populations manage to transform large areas so rapidly?’ Using a simulation model, we demonstrate how the relationship between time since fire and flammability in New Zealand's forests drives positive feedbacks that allow for rapid and extensive deforestation. Under ignition scenarios mirroring prehuman conditions, the model did not produce significant deforestation – thus, it is extremely unlikely that deforestation could have occurred without human‐initiated burning. Scenarios where ignition was spatio‐temporally random also failed to result in deforestation. Rapid and widespread forest loss occurred in scenarios incorporating spatio‐temporally savvy selection of ignition locations. Targeting ignitions in flammable vegetation was more important than targeting ignitions in years with favourable climatic conditions. However, targeting in space and time concurrently, such that flammable vegetation was ignited during favourable climatic years was the most efficient strategy of those simulated. Following the Initial Burning Period decadal ignitions would have been sufficient to maintain a deforested shrubland/grassland landscape. New Zealand's Initial Burning Period is one of many that occurred across eastern Polynesia following human settlement, and these events have left long‐term legacy effects that remain evident in contemporary landscapes. Improving understanding of how humans shaped environments in New Zealand in the past has implications for eastern Polynesia as a whole.
    Global Change Biology 01/2012; 18(5). · 8.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The last glacial-interglacial transition (LGIT; 19–9ka) was characterized by rapid climate changes and significant ecosystem reorganizations worldwide. In western Colorado, one of the coldest locations in the continental US today, mountain environments during the late-glacial period are poorly known. Yet, archaeological evidence from the Mountaineer site (2625m elev.) indicates that Folsom-age Paleoindians were over-wintering in the Gunnison Basin during the Younger Dryas Chronozone (YDC; 12.9–11.7ka). To determine the vegetation and fire history during the LGIT, and possible explanations for occupation during a period thought to be harsher than today, a 17-ka-old sediment core from Lily Pond (3208m elev.) was analyzed for pollen and charcoal and compared with other high-resolution records from the southern Rocky Mountains. Widespread tundra and Picea parkland and low fire activity in the cold wet late-glacial period transitioned to open subalpine forest and increased fire activity in the Bølling–Allerød period as conditions became warmer and drier. During the YDC, greater winter snowpack than today and prolonged wet springs likely expanded subalpine forest to lower elevations than today, providing construction material and fuel for the early inhabitants. In the early to middle Holocene, arid conditions resulted in xerophytic vegetation and frequent fire.
    Quaternary Research 01/2012; · 2.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The influence of substrate on long-term vegetation dynamics has received little attention, and yet nutrient-limited ecosystems have some of the highest levels of endemism in the world. The diverse geology of the Klamath Mountains of northern California (USA) allows examination of the long-term influence of edaphic constraints in subalpine forests through a comparison of vegetation histories between nutrient-limited ultramafic substrates and terrain that is more fertile. Pollen and charcoal records spanning up to 15000 years from ultramafic settings reveal a distinctly different vegetation history compared to other soil types. In non-ultramafic settings, the dominant trees and shrubs shifted in elevation in response to Holocene climate variations resulting in compositional and structural changes, whereas on ultramafic substrates changes were primarily structural, not compositional. Fire activity was similar through most of the Holocene with the exception of declines over the last 4000 years on ultramafic substrates, likely due to the reduction of understory fuels and cooler wetter conditions than in the middle Holocene. These results suggest that the tree and shrub distributions were more responsive to past climate changes on non-ultramafic substrates compared to those on ultramafic substrates. The combination of these dynamics may help explain high levels of plant diversity in the Klamath Mountains and provide insights for managing these complex ecosystems.
    Ecology 03/2011; 92(3):590-601. · 5.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The paucity of low- and middle-elevation paleoecologic records in the Northern Rocky Mountains limits our ability to assess current environmental change in light of past conditions. A 10,500-yr-long vegetation, fire and climate history from Lower Decker Lake in the Sawtooth Range provides information from a new region. Initial forests dominated by pine and Douglas-fir were replaced by open Douglas-fir forest at 8420 cal yr BP, marking the onset of warmer conditions than present. Presence of closed Douglas-fir forest between 6000 and 2650 cal yr BP suggests heightened summer drought in the middle Holocene. Closed lodgepole pine forest developed at 2650 cal yr BP and fires became more frequent after 1450 cal yr BP. This shift from Douglas-fir to lodgepole pine forest was probably facilitated by a combination of cooler summers, cold winters, and more severe fires than before. Five drought episodes, including those at 8200 cal yr BP and during the Medieval Climate Anomaly, were registered by brief intervals of lodgepole pine decline, an increase in fire activity, and mistletoe infestation. The importance of a Holocene perspective when assessing the historical range of variability is illustrated by the striking difference between the modern forest and that which existed 3000 yr ago.
    Quaternary Research 01/2011; · 2.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The 1988 Yellowstone fires were among the first in what has proven to be an upsurge in large severe fires in the western USA during the past 20 years. At the time of the fires, little was known about the impacts of such a large severe disturbance because scientists had had few previous opportunities to study such an event. Ecologists predicted short-and long-term effects of the 1988 fires on vegetation, biogeochemistry, primary productivity, wildlife, and aquatic ecosystems based on scientific understanding of the time. Twenty-plus years of subsequent study allow these early predictions to be evaluated. Most of the original predictions were at least partially supported, but some predictions were refuted, others nuanced, and a few postfire phenomena were entirely unexpected. Post-1988 Yellowstone studies catalyzed advances in ecology focused on the importance of spatial and temporal heterogeneity, contingent influences, and multiple interacting drivers. Post-1988 research in Yellow-stone also has changed public perceptions of fire as an ecological process and attitudes towards fire management. Looking ahead to projected climate change and more frequent large fires, the well-documented ecological responses to the 1988 Yel-lowstone fires provide a foundation for detecting and evaluating potential changes in fire regimes of temperate mountainous regions.
    Ecosystems 01/2011; · 3.17 Impact Factor
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    Philip E Higuera, Cathy Whitlock, Josh A Gage
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    ABSTRACT: Reconstructing specific fire-history metrics with charcoal records has been difficult, in part because calibration data sets are rare. We calibrated charcoal accumulation in sediments from three medium (14–19 ha) and one large (4250 ha) lake with a 300 yr tree-ring-based fire-history reconstruction from central Yellowstone National Park (YNP) to reconstruct local fire occurrence and area burned within a 128 840 ha study area. Charcoal peaks most accurately reflected fires within 1.2–3.0 km of coring sites, whereas total charcoal accumulation correlated best with area burned within 6.0–51 km (r 2 =0.22–0.62, p<0.05). To reconstruct area burned for the entire study area, we developed a statistical model based on a composite charcoal record. The model explained 64–79% of the variability in area burned from ad 1675 to 1960 and was robust to cross-validation. Reconstructed area burned from ad 1240–1975 was significantly higher during periods including extreme annual drought (p=0.05), and area burned varied significantly at ≈ 60 yr timescales (p<0.05), similar to the variability in an independent precipitation reconstruction covering the same period. Widespread burning (>10 000 ha) occurred at 150–300 yr intervals, and at the site level, fire probability increased with stand age (composite Weibull c parameter = 1.61 [95% CI 1.36–2.54]), both suggesting that post-fire stand development played an important intermediary role between climate and fire by increasing fuel abundance and probability of fire spread. Our study illustrates the possibility of reconstructing area burned with multiple charcoal records, and results imply that future fire regimes in YNP will be governed by direct impacts of altered moisture regimes and by vegetation dynamics affecting the abundance and continuity of fuels.
    The Holocene 01/2011; 21(2). · 3.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Humans have altered natural patterns of fire for millennia, but the impact of human-set fires is thought to have been slight in wet closed-canopy forests. In the South Island of New Zealand, Polynesians (Māori), who arrived 700-800 calibrated years (cal y) ago, and then Europeans, who settled ∼150 cal y ago, used fire as a tool for forest clearance, but the structure and environmental consequences of these fires are poorly understood. High-resolution charcoal and pollen records from 16 lakes were analyzed to reconstruct the fire and vegetation history of the last 1,000 y. Diatom, chironomid, and element concentration data were examined to identify disturbance-related limnobiotic and biogeochemical changes within burned watersheds. At most sites, several high-severity fire events occurred within the first two centuries of Māori arrival and were often accompanied by a transformation in vegetation, slope stability, and lake chemistry. Proxies of past climate suggest that human activity alone, rather than unusually dry or warm conditions, was responsible for this increased fire activity. The transformation of scrub to grassland by Europeans in the mid-19th century triggered further, sometimes severe, watershed change, through additional fires, erosion, and the introduction of nonnative plant species. Alteration of natural disturbance regimes had lasting impacts, primarily because native forests had little or no previous history of fire and little resilience to the severity of burning. Anthropogenic burning in New Zealand highlights the vulnerability of closed-canopy forests to novel disturbance regimes and suggests that similar settings may be less resilient to climate-induced changes in the future.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 12/2010; 107(50):21343-8. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: High-resolution pollen records from North America show that terrestrial environments were affected by Dansgaard-Oeschger (D-O) and Heinrich climate variability during the last glacial. In the western, more mountainous regions, these climate changes are generally observed in the pollen records as altitudinal movements of climate-sensitive plant species, whereas in the southeast, they are recorded as latitudinal shifts in vegetation. Heinrich (HS) and Greenland (GS) stadials are generally correlated with cold and dry climate and Greenland interstadials (GI) with warm-wet phases. The pollen records from North America confirm that vegetation responds rapidly to millennial-scale climate variability, although the difficulties in establishing independent age models for the pollen records make determination of the absolute phasing of the records to surface temperatures in Greenland somewhat uncertain.
    Quaternary Science Reviews 10/2010; 29(21-22):2865-2881. · 4.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: High-resolution macroscopic charcoal and pollen analyses were used to reconstruct the fire and vegetation history of the Willamette Valley for the last 1200 years. Presented in this paper are three new paleoecological reconstructions from Lake Oswego, Porter Lake, and Warner Lake, Oregon, and portions of previous reconstructions from Battle Ground Lake, Washington, and Beaver Lake, Oregon. The reconstructions show that prior to Euro-American settlement vegetation and fire regimes were influenced by a combination of natural and anthropogenic factors. Battle Ground Lake shows a stronger influence from climate, while Lake Oswego, Beaver Lake, Porter Lake, and Warner Lake were more controlled by human activity. However, human-set fires were also modulated by regional climate variability during the Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age. Fire reconstructions from Battle Ground Lake, Lake Oswego, Beaver Lake, and Porter Lake imply that fires were infrequent in the Willamette Valley 200–300 years prior to Euro-American settlement. The decline of Native American populations due to introduced disease may have led to this reduction in fire activity. The prehistoric record from Warner Lake, however, indicates that fires in the foothills of the Cascade Range were more frequent than on the valley floor, at least until ca. AD 1800. The historic portions of the reconstructions indicate that Euro-American land clearance for agriculture and logging produced the most dramatic shifts in vegetation and fire regimes. All five records indicate that few fires in the Willamette Valley have occurred since ca. AD 1930, and fires today are predominantly grass fires.
    Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 01/2010; 297(2):273-289. · 2.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: High-resolution macroscopic charcoal and pollen analysis were used to reconstruct an 11 000-year-long record of fire and vegetation history from Beaver Lake, Oregon, the first complete Holocene paleoecological record from the floor of the Willamette Valley. In the early Holocene (ca 11 000–7500 calendar years before present [cal yr BP]), warmer, drier summers than at present led to the establishment of xeric woodland of Quercus, Corylus, and Pseudotsuga near the site. Disturbances (i.e., floods, fires) were common at this time and as a result Alnus rubra grew nearby. High fire frequency occurred in the early Holocene from ca 11 200–9300 cal yr BP. Riparian forest and wet prairie developed in the middle Holocene (ca 7500 cal yr BP), likely the result of a decrease in the frequency of flooding and a shift to effectively cooler, wetter conditions than before. The vegetation at Beaver Lake remained generally unchanged into the late Holocene (from 4000 cal yr BP to present), with the exception of land clearance associated with Euro-American settlement of the valley (ca 160 cal yr BP). Middle-to-late Holocene increases in fire frequency, coupled with abrupt shifts in fire-episode magnitude and charcoal composition, likely indicate the influence anthropogenic burning near the site. The paleoecological record from Beaver Lake, and in particular the general increase in fire frequency over the last 8500 years, differs significantly from other low-elevation sites in the Pacific Northwest, which suggests that local controls (e.g., shifts in vegetation structure, intensification of human land-use), rather than regional climatic controls, more strongly influenced its environmental history.
    Quaternary Science Reviews 01/2010; · 4.57 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
258.04 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2006–2014
    • Montana State University
      • Department of Earth Sciences
      Bozeman, Montana, United States
  • 2012
    • University of Wisconsin, Madison
      • Department of Geography
      Madison, MS, United States
  • 2011
    • Columbia University
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 1995–2009
    • University of Oregon
      • Department of Geography
      Eugene, Oregon, United States
  • 2008
    • University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh
      • Department of Geography and Urban Planning
      Oshkosh, WI, United States
  • 2007
    • University of Wyoming
      • Department of Botany
      Laramie, WY, United States
  • 2005
    • Northern Arizona University
      • School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability
      Flagstaff, Arizona, United States