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Journal Article

Human-induced fire regime shifts during 19th century industrialization: A robust fire regime reconstruction using northern Polish lake sediments


Ott,  Florian
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Dietze, E., Brykała, D., Schreuder, L. T., Jażdżewski, K., Blarquez, O., Brauer, A., et al. (2019). Human-induced fire regime shifts during 19th century industrialization: A robust fire regime reconstruction using northern Polish lake sediments. PLoS One, 14(9): e0222011. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0222011.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-E9E7-1
Fire regime shifts are driven by climate and natural vegetation changes, but can be strongly affected by human land management. Yet, it is poorly known how humans have influenced fire regimes prior to active wildfire suppression. Among the last 250 years, the human contribution to the global increase in fire occurrence during the mid-19th century is especially unclear, as data sources are limited. Here, we test the extent to which forest management has driven fire regime shifts in a temperate forest landscape. We combine multiple fire proxies (macroscopic charcoal and fire-related biomarkers) derived from highly resolved lake sediments (i.e., 3–5 years per sample), and apply a new statistical approach to classify source area- and temperature-specific fire regimes (biomass burnt, fire episodes). We compare these records with independent climate and vegetation reconstructions. We find two prominent fire regime shifts during the 19th and 20th centuries, driven by an adaptive socio-ecological cycle in human forest management. Although individual fire episodes were triggered mainly by arson (as described in historical documents) during dry summers, the biomass burnt increased unintentionally during the mid-19th century due to the plantation of flammable, fast-growing pine tree monocultures needed for industrialization. State forest management reacted with active fire management and suppression during the 20th century. However, pine cover has been increasing since the 1990s and climate projections predict increasingly dry conditions, suggesting a renewed need for adaptations to reduce the increasing fire risk. © 2019 Dietze et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.