11 Nov 2020

11 Nov 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Wildfire history of the boreal forest of southwestern Yakutia (Siberia) over the last two millennia documented by a lake-sedimentary charcoal record

Ramesh Glückler1,2, Ulrike Herzschuh1,2,3, Stefan Kruse1, Andrei Andreev1, Stuart Andrew Vyse1, Bettina Winkler1,4, Boris K. Biskaborn1, Luidmila Pestryakova5, and Elisabeth Dietze1 Ramesh Glückler et al.
  • 1Section of Polar Terrestrial Environmental Systems, Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Potsdam, 14473, Germany
  • 2Institute for Environmental Science and Geography, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, 14476, Germany
  • 3Institute for Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, 14476, Germany
  • 4Institute of Geosciences, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, 14476, Germany
  • 5Institute of Natural Sciences, North-Eastern Federal University of Yakutsk, Yakutsk, 677007, Russia

Abstract. Wildfires, as a key disturbance in forest ecosystems, are shaping the world’s boreal landscapes. Changes in fire regimes are closely linked to a wide array of environmental factors, such as vegetation composition, climate change, and human activity. Arctic and boreal regions and, in particular, Siberian boreal forests are experiencing rising air and ground temperatures with the subsequent degradation of permafrost soils, leading to shifts in tree cover and species composition. Compared to the boreal zones of North America or Europe, little is known about how such environmental changes might influence long-term fire regimes in Russia. The larch-dominated eastern Siberian deciduous boreal forests differ markedly from the composition of other boreal forests, yet data about past fire regimes remain sparse. Here, we present a high-resolution macroscopic charcoal record from lacustrine sediments of Lake Khamra (SW Yakutia, Siberia) spanning the last c. 2200 years, including information about charcoal particle sizes and morphotypes. Our results reveal a phase of increased charcoal accumulation between 600–900 CE, indicative of relatively high amounts of burnt biomass and high fire frequencies. This is followed by an almost 900-year-long period of low charcoal accumulation without significant peaks, likely corresponding to cooler climate conditions. After 1750 CE fire frequencies and the relative amount of biomass burnt start to increase again, coinciding with a warming climate and increased anthropogenic land development after Russian colonisation. In the 20th century, total charcoal accumulation decreases again to very low levels, despite higher fire frequency, potentially reflecting a change in fire management strategies and/or a shift of the fire regime towards more frequent, but smaller fires. A similar pattern for different charcoal morphotypes and comparison to a pollen and non-pollen palynomorph record from the same sediment core indicate that broad-scale changes in vegetation composition were probably not a major driver of recorded fire regime changes. Instead, the fire regime of the last two millennia at Lake Khamra seems to be controlled mainly by a combination of short-term climate variability and anthropogenic fire ignition and suppression.

Ramesh Glückler et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment

Ramesh Glückler et al.

Data sets

Macroscopic charcoal record from Lake Khamra, Yakutia, Russia Ramesh Glückler, Ulrike Herzschuh, Stuart Andrew Vyse, and Elisabeth Dietze

Ramesh Glückler et al.


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Short summary
Data about past fire activity is very sparse in Siberia. This study presents a first high-resolution record of charcoal particles from lake sediments in boreal eastern Siberia. It indicates that current levels of charcoal accumulation are not unprecedented. While a recent increase in reconstructed fire frequency coincides with rising temperatures and increasing human activity, vegetation composition does not seem to be a major driver behind changes of the fire regime in the past two millennia.