Climatic control of the biomass-burning decline in the Americas after AD 1500
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Mitchell J. Power; Francis E. Mayle; Patrick J. Bartlein; Jennifer R. Marlon; R. Scott Anderson; Hermann Behling; Kendrick J. Brown; Christopher Carcaillet; Daniele Colombaroli; Daniel G. Gavin; Douglas J. Hallett; Sally P. Horn; L. M. Kennedy; Chad S. Lane; Colin J. Long; Patricio I. Moreno; Cédric Paitre; G. Robinson; Z. Taylor; Megan K. Walsh
Publication Year: 2013

Cataloging Information

  • biomass burning
  • Canada
  • charcoal
  • human population
  • Little Ice Age
  • South America
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: September 25, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 13557


The significance and cause of the decline in biomass burning across the Americas after ad 1500 is a topic of considerable debate. We synthesized charcoal records (a proxy for biomass burning) from the Americas and from the remainder of the globe over the past 2000 years, and compared these with paleoclimatic records and population reconstructions. A distinct post-ad 1500 decrease in biomass burning is evident, not only in the Americas, but also globally, and both are similar in duration and timing to 'Little Ice Age' climate change. There is temporal and spatial variability in the expression of the biomass-burning decline across the Americas but, at a regional-continental scale, 'Little Ice Age' climate change was likely more important than indigenous population collapse in driving this decline.

Online Link(s):
Power, M.J.; Mayle, Francis E.; Bartlein, Patrick J.; Marlon, J.R.; Anderson, R.S.; Behling, H.; Brown, K.J.; Carcaillet, Christopher; Colombaroli, Daniele; Gavin, Daniel G.; Hallett, Douglas J.; Horn, S.P.; Kennedy, L.M.; Lane, Chad S.; Long, Colin J.; Moreno, Patricio I.; Paitre, Cédric; Robinson, G.; Taylor, Z.; Walsh, M.K. 2013. Climatic control of the biomass-burning decline in the Americas after AD 1500. The Holocene 23(1):3-13.