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A comparison of charcoal measurements for reconstruction of Mediterranean paleo-fire frequency in the mountains of Corsica

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Bérangère Leys*
Paleoenvironments and Chronoecology (PALECO EPHE) Ecole Pratique des Hautes Études, Institut de Botanique, 163 rue Broussonet, F-34090 Montpellier, France Centre for Bio-Archaeology and Ecology (UMR5059 CNRS), Université Montpellier 2, Institut de Botanique, 163 rue Broussonet, F-34090 Montpellier, France
Christopher Carcaillet
Paleoenvironments and Chronoecology (PALECO EPHE) Ecole Pratique des Hautes Études, Institut de Botanique, 163 rue Broussonet, F-34090 Montpellier, France Centre for Bio-Archaeology and Ecology (UMR5059 CNRS), Université Montpellier 2, Institut de Botanique, 163 rue Broussonet, F-34090 Montpellier, France
Laurent Dezileau
Geosciences Montpellier (UMR5243 CNRS), Université Montpellier 2, place Eugène Bataillon, F-34095 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
Adam A. Ali
Centre for Bio-Archaeology and Ecology (UMR5059 CNRS), Université Montpellier 2, Institut de Botanique, 163 rue Broussonet, F-34090 Montpellier, France Chaire industrielle CRSNG-UQAT-UQAM en aménagement forestier durable, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, 445 Boulevard de l'Université, Rouyn-Noranda, QC, Canada J9X 5E4
Richard H.W. Bradshaw
School of Environmental Sciences, Roxby Building, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZT, United Kingdom
*Corresponding author at: Paleoenvironments and Chronoecology (PALECO EPHE) Ecole Pratique des Hautes Études, Institut de Botanique, 163 rue Broussonet, F-34090 Montpellier, France. E-mail (B. Leys).


Fire-history reconstructions inferred from sedimentary charcoal records are based on measuring sieved charcoal fragment area, estimating fragment volume, or counting fragments. Similar fire histories are reconstructed from these three approaches for boreal lake sediment cores, using locally defined thresholds. Here, we test the same approach for a montane Mediterranean lake in which taphonomical processes might differ from boreal lakes through fragmentation of charcoal particles. The Mediterranean charcoal series are characterized by highly variable charcoal accumulation rates. Results there indicate that the three proxies do not provide comparable fire histories. The differences are attributable to charcoal fragmentation. This could be linked to fire type (crown or surface fires) or taphonomical processes, including charcoal transportation in the catchment area or in the sediment. The lack of correlation between the concentration of charcoal and of mineral matter suggests that fragmentation is not linked to erosion. Reconstructions based on charcoal area are more robust and stable than those based on fragment counts. Area-based reconstructions should therefore be used instead of the particle-counting method when fragmentation may influence the fragment abundance.

Research Article
University of Washington

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