Title

The Role of Fire in the Persistence of Montane Meadow Environments in the Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Presenter Information

Tamara Cox
Megan Walsh

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC Ballroom C/D

Start Date

16-5-2013

End Date

16-5-2013

Abstract

Historical records document the use of fire by Native Americans to maintain low-elevation fire-adapted ecosystems in the western United States prior to Euro-American settlement, but little is known about prehistoric burning patterns in mid-elevation forest/meadow environments. Resources such as beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) and huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.) which are known to have been economically and culturally significant to Native Americans are found in these environments, and both species benefit from low-severity fire regimes. Today montane meadows are disappearing, presumably due to the lack of Native American-set fires combined with fire suppression policies of the twentieth century, although climatic changes over the last century also remain a possible cause. The purpose of this study is to reconstruct the fire and vegetation history of mid-elevation forest/meadow ecotonal environments in the western Cascades of Oregon. In 2012, lake sediment cores were extracted from Blair Lake (1,451 meter elevation) near the town of Oakridge, Oregon. This lake is surrounded by forests dominated by Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis) and mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) and meadows containing beargrass and huckleberries. Charcoal and pollen are currently being analyzed from these sediments in order to establish shifts in the fire and vegetation regimes. Preliminary results show a relatively high amount of fire activity at Blair Lake during the late Holocene. These reconstructions will be compared to regional climatic records, Forest Service fire data, historical accounts, and archaeological records in order to determine their respective influences on montane meadows.

Poster Number

25

Faculty Mentor(s)

Megan Walsh

Additional Mentoring Department

Geography

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May 16th, 2:15 PM May 16th, 4:44 PM

The Role of Fire in the Persistence of Montane Meadow Environments in the Willamette National Forest, Oregon

SURC Ballroom C/D

Historical records document the use of fire by Native Americans to maintain low-elevation fire-adapted ecosystems in the western United States prior to Euro-American settlement, but little is known about prehistoric burning patterns in mid-elevation forest/meadow environments. Resources such as beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) and huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.) which are known to have been economically and culturally significant to Native Americans are found in these environments, and both species benefit from low-severity fire regimes. Today montane meadows are disappearing, presumably due to the lack of Native American-set fires combined with fire suppression policies of the twentieth century, although climatic changes over the last century also remain a possible cause. The purpose of this study is to reconstruct the fire and vegetation history of mid-elevation forest/meadow ecotonal environments in the western Cascades of Oregon. In 2012, lake sediment cores were extracted from Blair Lake (1,451 meter elevation) near the town of Oakridge, Oregon. This lake is surrounded by forests dominated by Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis) and mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) and meadows containing beargrass and huckleberries. Charcoal and pollen are currently being analyzed from these sediments in order to establish shifts in the fire and vegetation regimes. Preliminary results show a relatively high amount of fire activity at Blair Lake during the late Holocene. These reconstructions will be compared to regional climatic records, Forest Service fire data, historical accounts, and archaeological records in order to determine their respective influences on montane meadows.