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Regionalization of fire regimes in the Central Rocky Mountains, USA

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Vachel A. Carter*
RED Lab, Department of Geography, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
Andrea Brunelle
RED Lab, Department of Geography, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
Thomas A. Minckley
Department of Geography and Program in Ecology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA
Philip E. Dennison
URSA Lab, Department of Geography, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
Mitchell J. Power
Utah Museum of Natural History, Department of Geography, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
*Corresponding author. E-mail (V.A. Carter).


Fire is one of the most important natural disturbances in the coniferous forests of the US Rocky Mountains. The Rocky Mountains are separated by a climatic boundary between 40° and 45° N, which we refer to as the central Rocky Mountains (CRM). To determine whether the fire regime from the CRM was more similar to the northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) or southern Rocky Mountains (SRM) during the Holocene, a 12,539-yr-old sediment core from Long Lake, Wyoming, located in the CRM was analyzed for charcoal and pollen. These data were then compared to charcoal records from the CRM, NRM and SRM. During the Younger Dryas chronozone, the fire regime was characterized as frequent at Long Lake. The early and middle Holocene fire regime was characterized as infrequent. A brief interval from 4000 to 3000 cal yr BP, termed the Populus period, had a frequent fire regime and remained frequent through the late Holocene at Long Lake. In comparison to sites from the NRM and SRM, the fire regime at Long Lake was most similar to the SRM during the past 12,539 cal yr BP. These results suggest the disturbance regime in the CRM has a greater affinity with those of the SRM.

Original Articles
University of Washington

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