Document


Title

Wildfire history and climatic change in the semi-arid loess tableland in the middle reaches of the Yellow River of China during the holocene: evidence from charcoal records
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Zhihai Tan; Chun Chang Huang; Jiangli Pang; Yali Zhou
Publication Year: 2013

Cataloging Information

Keyword(s):
  • anthropogenic fires
  • charcoal
  • China
  • climatic change
  • Holocene
  • loess soils
  • prehistoric fires
Topic(s):
Region(s):
  • International
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: November 9, 2015
FRAMES Record Number: 15652

Description

High-resolution macroscopic charcoal and sediment analysis was used to reconstruct fire history and environmental changes from three loess-paleosol profiles on the semi-arid loess tableland landscape during the Lateglacial period and the Holocene. Analysis of charcoal concentrations, influx, and the ratios of particle-size classes (from which changes in charcoal taphonomy over time are inferred) in the profiles show spatially coherent patterns of change that relate to regional variations in climate. Effective moisture variability on century to millennial timescales and regional differences in fuel availability appear to be the most important controls on fire from the Lateglacial period to the mid Holocene (12,000-3100 yr BP). Conversely, asynchronous fire patterns during the late Holocene appear to indicate regional and temporal variations as well as changing intensities of human activity. Land use intensified in the region during the late Holocene, when the climate became more arid, and a distinct increase in charcoal concentration then indicated an unprecedented increase in biomass burning. The increase in fire activity occurs in the recent loess layer (L0) and the surface soil (TS) consistent with the establishment of irrigated farming for cereal cultivation in the southern part of the study region about 3100 yr BP. Broad-scale land reclamation was extended to the loess tableland region about 2170-1730 yr BP (during the Qin-Han Dynasty period), and the rapidly decreasing charcoal concentration in the accumulated topsoil (at depths of less than 20 cm) at the CCY site since 1500 yr BP is consistent with the development of terrace farming in the northern part of the study region at that time. In summary, the evolution of fire history in the study profiles across the region is closely related to (1) gradients in humidity; (2) spatial and temporal variability in the distribution and intensity of human land use; and (3) the buildup of burnable biomass, among which there was a nonlinear complex relationship during the Holocene. Increased efforts to synthesize and analyze multiple paleo-environmental records and to combine these with multiproxy evidence are needed to understand wildfire history as well as human land use and social cultural development across the region in depth.

Online Link(s):
Citation:
Tan, Zhihai; Huang, Chun Chang; Pang, Jiangli; Zhou, Yali. 2013. Wildfire history and climatic change in the semi-arid loess tableland in the middle reaches of the Yellow River of China during the holocene: evidence from charcoal records. The Holocene 23(10):1466-1476.