Using paleoecology to inform land management as climates change: an example from an oak savanna ecosystem
Document Type: Journal
Author(s): J. D. Spencer ; A. Brunelle ; T. Hepola
Publication Year: 2017

Cataloging Information

  • charcoal accumulation
  • fire frequency
  • fire regimes
  • Great Plains
  • Holocene
  • land management
  • mass-spectrometry
  • northwestern Minnesota
  • oak
  • oak savanna
  • paleoecology
  • pollen
  • prairie-forest ecotone
  • prairies
  • Quercus spp.
  • savannas
  • southcentral Minnesota
  • vegetation responses
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 55723
Tall Timbers Record Number: 33797
TTRS Location Status: Not in file
TTRS Call Number: Available
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use

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.


Oak savanna, a transitional ecosystem between open prairie and dense oak forest, was once widespread in Minnesota. Upon European settlement much of the oak savanna was destroyed. Recently, efforts to restore this ecosystem have increased and often include the reintroduction of fire. Though fire is known to serve an important role within oak savannas, there are currently few studies which address fire regimes on timescales longer than the last century. This research presents a paleoecological history of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR) in MN, USA, spanning the last similar to 8000 years. The objectives of this study were to use charcoal, pollen, and magnetic susceptibility of lake sediments collected from Johnson Slough (JS) within the refuge to evaluate the natural range of variability and disturbance history of the oak savanna within the refuge, assess the success of current restoration strategies, and add to the regional paleoecological history. The mid/late Holocene period of the JS record shows a period of high fire activity from ca. 6500 to 2600 cal year BP, with a shift from prairie to oak savanna occurring over this same period. A (possibly agricultural) disturbance to JS sediments affected the period from ca. 2600 cal year BP to 1963 AD, which includes the time of Euro-American settlement. However, the destruction and subsequent restoration of the oak savanna is evident in a pollen ratio of Quercus: Poaceae, indicating that current restoration efforts have been successful at restoring the oak savanna to within the natural range of variability seen just prior to destruction. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Online Link(s):
Spencer, J. D., A. Brunelle, and T. Hepola. 2017. Using paleoecology to inform land management as climates change: an example from an oak savanna ecosystem. Environmental Management, v. 60, no. 6, p. 1090-1100. 10.1007/s00267-017-0936-y.