Holocene fire history reconstruction of a mid-elevation mixed-conifer forest in the Eastern Cascades, Washington, USA

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Resource Management (REM)

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Fire histories of mid-elevation mixed-conifer forests are uncommon in the eastern Cascades, limiting our understanding of long-term fire dynamics in these environments. The purpose of this study was to reconstruct the fire and vegetation history for a moist mid-elevation mixed-conifer site, and to determine whether Holocene fire activity in this watershed was intermediate to fire regimes observed at higher and lower elevations in the eastern Cascades. Fire activity and vegetation change was reconstructed using macroscopic charcoal and pollen analysis of sediment core from Long Lake. This site is located ~45 km west of Yakima, WA, and exists in a grand fir-dominated, mixed-conifer forest. Results show low fire activity from ca. 9870 to 6000 cal yr BP, after which time fire increased and remained frequent until ca. 500 cal yr BP. A woodland environment existed at the site in the early Holocene, with the modern coniferous forest establishing ca. 6000–5500 cal yr BP. A mixed-severity fire regime has existed at the site for the past ~6000 years, with both higher- and lower-severity fire episodes occurring on average every ~80–100 years. However, only one fire episode occurred in the Long Lake watershed during the past 500 years, and none within the past ~150 years. Based on a comparison with other eastern Cascade sites, Holocene fire regimes at Long Lake, particularly during the late Holocene, appear to be intermediate between those observed at higher- and lower elevation sites, both in terms of fire severity and frequency.


This article was originally published in The Holocene. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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The Holocene


© The Author(s) 2021