Fire history on a desert mountain range: Rincon Mountain Wilderness, Arizona, USA
Modern fire records and fire-scarred remnant material collected from logs, snags, and stumps were used to reconstruct and analyze fire history in the mixed-conifer and pine forest above 2300 m within the Rincon Mountain Wilderness of Saguaro National Monument, Arizona, United States. Cross-dating of the remnant material allowed dating of fire events to the calendar year. Estimates of seasonal occurrence were compiled for larger fires. It was determined that the fire regime was dominated by large scale (> 200 ha), early-season (May–July) surface fires. The mean fire interval over the Mica Mountain study area for the period 1657–1893 was 6.1 years with a range of 1–13 years for larger fires. The mean fire interval for the mixed-conifer forest type (1748–1886) was 9.9 years with a range of 3–19 years. Thirty-five major fire years between 1700 and 1900 were compared with a tree-ring reconstruction of the Palmer drought severity index (PDSI). Mean July PDSI for 2 years prior to fires was higher (wetter) than average, while mean fire year PDSI was near average. This 490-year record of fire occurrence demonstrates the value of high-resolution (annual and seasonal) tree-ring analyses for documenting and interpreting temporal and spatial patterns of past fire regimes.