Late-glacial and Holocene records of fire and vegetation from Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania, Australia

Laura N. Stahle, Hahjung (Jay) Chin, Simon Haberle, Cathy Whitlock

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Fire activity was reconstructed at five sites and vegetation history at three sites in northwest Tasmania, Australia in order to examine the climate and human drivers of environmental change in the region. Watershed-scale reconstructions of fire were compared to regional vegetation history. Fire activity was very low until ca. 12,000 cal yr BP. An early-Holocene fire maximum, ca. 11,800-9800 cal yr BP, occurred during the warmest interval of the Holocene as recorded by regional paleoclimate proxy records. This period of elevated burning was also coincident with an increase in arboreal sclerophyll plant taxa. A maximum in rainforest taxa occurred at ca. 8500-5800 cal yr BP concurrent with sharply diminished biomass burning compared with the early Holocene. The increase in rainforest taxa is attributed to elevated effective moisture during this period. Conditions were drier and variable in the late Holocene as compared with earlier periods. A rise in fire activity at ca. 4800-3200 cal yr BP was accompanied by an increase in sclerophyll taxa and decline of rainforest and subalpine taxa. Elevated palynological richness during the late Holocene co-occurred with high levels of charcoal suggesting that fires promoted high floristic diversity. At Cradle Mountain, there is no clear evidence that fire regimes or vegetation were extensively modified by humans prior to European settlement. Climate was the primary driver of fire activity over millennial timescales as explained by the close relationship between charcoal and climate proxy data.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)57-77
    JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
    Volume177
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

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