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Climate and human influence on late Holocene fire regimes in the British Virgin Islands

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 December 2018

Joshua R. Mueller*
Affiliation:
Department of Geography, Natural History Museum of Utah, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA
Mitchell J. Power
Affiliation:
Department of Geography, Natural History Museum of Utah, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA
Colin J. Long
Affiliation:
Department of Geography and Urban Planning, University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh, Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901, USA
*
*Corresponding author at: Department of Geography, Natural History Museum of Utah, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA. E-mail address: Joshua.r.mueller@gmail.com (J.R. Mueller).

Abstract

Global climate change poses significant threats to the Caribbean islands. Yet, little is known about the long-term disturbance regimes in island ecosystems. This research investigates 2000 yr of natural and anthropogenic fire disturbance through the analysis of a latitudinal transect of sediment records from coastal salt ponds in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). The two research objectives in this study are (1) to determine the fire regime history for the BVI over the last 2000 yr and (2) to explore ecological impacts from anthropogenic landscape modification pre- and post-European settlement. The magnitude of anthropogenic landscape modification, including the introduction of agriculture, was investigated through a multiproxy approach using sedimentary records of fossil pollen and charcoal. Our results suggest fire regimes from Belmont Pond, Thatch Island, and Skeleton Pond have been influenced by human activity, particularly during the postsettlement era, from 500 cal yr BP to modern. Our results suggest that fire regimes during the Medieval Climate Anomaly were responding to changes in climate via dominant atmospheric drivers. The presettlement fire regimes from these islands suggest that fires occurred every 90 to 120 yr. This research represents a significant data contribution to a region with little disturbance and vegetation data available.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2018 

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