Holocene fire activity during low-natural flammability periods reveals scale-dependent cultural human-fire relationships in Europe
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Elisabeth Dietze; Martin Theuerkauf; Karolina Bloom; Achim Brauer; Walter Dörfler; Ingo Feeser; Angelica Feurdean; Laura Gedminienė; Thomas Giesecke; Susanne Jahns; Monika Karpińska-Kołaczek; Piotr Kołaczek; Mariusz Lamentowicz; Małgorzata Latałowa; Katarzyna Marcisz; Milena Obremska; Anna Pędziszewska; Anneli Poska; Kira Rehfeld; Migle Stančikaitė; Normunds Stivrins; Joanna Święta-Musznicka; Marta Szal; Jüri Vassiljev; Siim Veski; Agnieszka Wacnik; Dawid Weisbrodt; Julian Wiethold; Boris Vannière; Michał Słowiński
Publication Year: 2018

Cataloging Information

  • archaeology
  • central Europe
  • Holocene
  • human impact
  • human-fire interactions
  • land cover
  • sedimentary charcoal
  • International
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: October 24, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 56778


Fire is a natural component of global biogeochemical cycles and closely related to changes in human land use. Whereas climate-fuel relationships seem to drive both global and subcontinental fire regimes, human-induced fires are prominent mainly on a local scale. Furthermore, the basic assumption that relates humans and fire regimes in terms of population densities, suggesting that few human-induced fires should occur in periods and areas of low population density, is currently debated. Here, we analyze human-fire relationships throughout the Holocene and discuss how and to what extent human-driven fires affected the landscape transformation in the Central European Lowlands (CEL). We present sedimentary charcoal composites on three spatial scales and compare them with climate model output and land cover reconstructions from pollen records. Our findings indicate that widespread natural fires only occurred during the early Holocene. Natural conditions (climate and vegetation) limited the extent of wildfires beginning 8500 cal. BP, and diverging subregional charcoal composites suggest that Mesolithic hunter-gatherers maintained a culturally diverse use of fire. Divergence in regional charcoal composites marks the spread of sedentary cultures in the western and eastern CEL. The intensification of human land use during the last millennium drove an increase in fire activity to early-Holocene levels across the CEL. Hence, humans have significantly affected natural fire regimes beyond the local scale - even in periods of low population densities - depending on diverse cultural land-use strategies. We find that humans have strongly affected land-cover- and biogeochemical cycles since Mesolithic times.

Online Link(s):
Dietze, Elisabeth; Theuerkauf, Martin; Bloom, Karolina; Brauer, Achim; Dörfler, Walter; Feeser, Ingo; Feurdean, Angelica; Gedminienė, Laura; Giesecke, Thomas; Jahns, Susanne; Karpińska-Kołaczek, Monika; Kołaczek, Piotr; Lamentowicz, Mariusz; Latałowa, Małgorzata; Marcisz, Katarzyna; Obremska, Milena; Pędziszewska, Anna; Poska, Anneli; Rehfeld, Kira; Stančikaitė, Migle; Stivrins, Normunds; Święta-Musznicka, Joanna; Szal, Marta; Vassiljev, Jüri; Veski, Siim; Wacnik, Agnieszka; Weisbrodt, Dawid; Wiethold, Julian; Vannière, Boris; Słowiński, Michał. 2018. Holocene fire activity during low-natural flammability periods reveals scale-dependent cultural human-fire relationships in Europe. Quaternary Science Reviews 201:44-56.