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Subalpine fires: the roles of vegetation, climate and, ultimately, land uses.

Abstract : Forest fires are controlled by local (vegetation, aspect, elevation, land uses) and regional (climate) factors. The role of these factors remains poorly assessed on centennial to millennial time scales. Here, we investigate fire and vegetation history in five subalpine sites over the past 8000 years to determine when, how, and why there were differences in fire regimes. We focus on time and aspect separately and account for vegetation composition. There are no significant differences in the fire return intervals among sites (~290 years between two fires). The rise of fire frequency from its lowest values (1.5 fires.1000 yr−1) at 8000–7000 years before present (yrBP) to its highest at 4000-3000 yrBP (5 fires-1000 yr−1) is well explained by the high temperatures and low precipitation of the Holocene, both leading to better conditions for fire ignition and spread. From 8000 yrBP, climate is likely the main factor driving the fire frequency on the north-facing sites, which contained mixed Larix decidua-Pinus cembra vegetation; whereas south-facing sites, dominated by the flammable P. cembra and broadleaved trees, appear to be driven by local features, including land use. A shift in the main drivers occurs at 4000 yrBP, when local processes start to control burning activity at all sites. Forest clearance for land use might have directly increased fire frequency, but has also helped to suppress fires through fuel limitation. During the last four millennia, land use likely altered the natural climate-vegetation-fire system mainly by converting forests to grassland by pastoral practices, thus leading to less fire and making the fire-vegetation-climate relationships more complex.
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Contributor : Nathalie Lyvet Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Monday, March 21, 2016 - 3:27:10 PM
Last modification on : Friday, September 30, 2022 - 11:12:08 AM

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Berangere Leys, Christopher Carcaillet. Subalpine fires: the roles of vegetation, climate and, ultimately, land uses.. Climatic Change, 2016, 135, pp.683-697. ⟨10.1007/s10584-016-1594-4⟩. ⟨hal-01291478⟩



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