Detecting changes in climate forcing on the fire regime of a North American mixed-pine forest: A case study of Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Upper Michigan.
Igor Drobyshev, P. Charles Goebel, Yves Bergeron, R Gregory Corace.
The study of forests dominated by red pine (Pinus resinosa Ait.), one of the few fire-resistant tree species of eastern North America, provides an opportunity to reconstruct long-term fire histories and examine the temporal dynamics of climate forcing upon forest fire regimes. We used a 300-year long spatially explicit dendrochronological reconstruction of the fire regime for Seney National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR, 38,531 ha), eastern Upper Michigan to: (1) identify fire size thresholds with strong vs. weak climate controls, (2) evaluate effect of landform type (outwash channel vs. sand ridges) in modifying climate–fire associations, and (3) check for the presence of temporal changes in the climate control of large fire events over the time period 1700–1983. We used a summer drought sensitive red pine chronology (ITRDB code can037) as a proxy of past fire-related climate variability. Results indicated that fires >60 ha in sand-ridge-dominated portions of SNWR and >100 ha in outwash channels were likely climatically driven events. Climate–fire associations varied over time with significant climate–fire linkages observed for the periods 1700–1800 (pre-EuroAmerican), 1800–1900 (EuroAmerican settlement) and 1900–1983 (modern era). Although an increase in fire activity at the turn of 20th century is commonly associated with human sources of ignitions, our results suggest that such an increase was also likely a climatically driven episode.