Fire and southeastern Amerindian culture [abstract]
Document Type: Conference Paper
Author(s): W. D. Carroll; P. R. Kapeluck; D. H. Van Lear
Publication Year: 2003

Cataloging Information

  • Bison bison
  • Carya
  • disturbance
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • fire frequency
  • fire management
  • grasses
  • herbaceous vegetation
  • JFSP - Joint Fire Science Program
  • land use
  • landscape ecology
  • low intensity burns
  • mammals
  • mosaic
  • Native Americans
  • pine
  • Pinus
  • prairies
  • presettlement fires
  • Quercus
  • savannas
  • trees
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: August 3, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 43886
Tall Timbers Record Number: 19167
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Abundant evidence places man in North America about 12,000 years ago. Emigrating from Eurasia, they brought with them one of their most important tools, fire. Their use of fire to manage the landscape was undoubtedly one of the most important influences on southeastern ecosystems. Fire was used to create more abundant resources to supply their needs for survival and eventually their populations flourished. A few years prior to the advent of Europeans in North America, Amerindian populations are estimated to have been about 1.5 to 2 million. Using fire, this large population had cleared most of the cultivatable flood plains in the Southeast where they applied intensive agricultural practices adopted from Mesoamerican cultures. Southeastern Amerindians occupied or utilized almost every acre of land, both uplands and bottoms, as they accomplished their 'seasonal rounds', procuring food and other materials. To induce the land to provide its maximum bounty, they burned both uplands and bottoms. For thousands of years these frequent low intensity fires slowly crept over the land creating a mosaic of vegetation that was a fire climax. Savannas and prairies were common and, where present, trees were widely spaced. Evidence supporting this concept is the dominance of disturbance species like pines, oaks, hickories, grasses and herbaceous plants and the presence of bison in the Southeast. Historical eyewitness descriptions further support a fire disturbed landscape.

Online Link(s):
Carroll, W. D., P. R. Kapeluck, and D. H. Van Lear. 2003. Fire and southeastern Amerindian culture [abstract], Second International Wildland Fire Ecology and Fire Management Congress and Fifth Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology, 16-20 November 2003, Orlando, FL [program volume and electronic resource]. American Meteorological Society,Boston, MA.