• 500 Years of Wildfire Frequency and Limnology Near Fairbanks, Alaska
    • Ben Gaglioti
    • October 17, 2014

Wildfire is the main mode of disturbance in Interior Alaska and affects everything from soil microbes to woodpeckers, not to mention state fiscal budgets and municipal hazards. Historical records of Alaska fires are brief. They go back 70 years, which is insufficient to estimate a typical fire cycle and does not encompass pre-industrial fire regimes. Long-term fire frequency and human impacts on the natural fire regime can be gleaned from paleoecological data. Here I use fire-scarred spruce trees and charcoal abundance in lake sediment layers to reconstruct fire frequency in a representative watershed near Fairbanks, Alaska. The lake record is unique because it has annual layers called varves that provide a precise timeline for past fires. Fires in the watershed occurred on average every 56 years until Fairbanks was settled, when they occurred around every 21 years. Increased fire frequency during the gold mining boom is probably a symptom of a growing human impact that has left a legacy on the modern landscape.

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  • Water and Environmental Research Center (WERC)
  • 437 Duckering
  • 306 Tanana Loop
  • PO Box 75 5860
  • Fairbanks, AK 99775-5860, USA