Document


Title

Fire suppression impacts on fuels and fire intensity in the western U.S.: insights from archaeological luminescence dating in northern New Mexico
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Christopher I. Roos; Tammy M. Rittenour; Thomas W. Swetnam; Rachel A. Loehman; Kacy L. Hollenback; Matthew J. Liebmann; Dana Drake Rosenstein
Publication Year: 2020

Cataloging Information

Keyword(s):
  • fire intensity
  • fire regimes
  • fire suppression
  • New Mexico
  • single-grain optical dating
  • surface archaeology
Region(s):
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: July 25, 2020
FRAMES Record Number: 61606

Description

Here, we show that the last century of fire suppression in the western U.S. has resulted in fire intensities that are unique over more than 900 years of record in ponderosa pine forests (Pinus ponderosa). Specifically, we use the heat-sensitive luminescence signal of archaeological ceramics and tree-ring fire histories to show that a recent fire during mild weather conditions was more intense than anything experienced in centuries of frequent wildfires. We support this with a particularly robust set of optically stimulated luminescence measurements on pottery from an archaeological site in northern New Mexico. The heating effects of an October 2012 CE prescribed fire reset the luminescence signal in all 12 surface samples of archaeological ceramics, whereas none of the 10 samples exposed to at least 14 previous fires (1696-1893 CE) revealed any evidence of past thermal impact. This was true regardless of the fire behavior contexts of the 2012 CE samples (crown, surface, and smoldering fires). It suggests that the fuel characteristics from fire suppression at this site have no analog during the 550 years since the depopulation of this site or the 350 years of preceding occupation of the forested landscape of this region.

Online Link(s):
Citation:
Roos, Christopher I.; Rittenour, Tammy M.; Swetnam, Thomas W.; Loehman, Rachel A.; Hollenback, Kacy L.; Liebmann, Matthew J.; Rosenstein, Dana Drake. 2020. Fire suppression impacts on fuels and fire intensity in the western U.S.: insights from archaeological luminescence dating in northern New Mexico. Fire 3(3):32.