The sedimentary and remote-sensing reflection of biomass burning in Europe

Carole Adolf, Stefan Wunderle, Daniele Colombaroli, Helga Weber, Erika Gobet, Oliver Heiri, Jacqueline F. N. van Leeuwen, Christian Bigler, Simon Connor, Mariusz Gałka, Tommaso La Mantia

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Aim: We provide the first European-scale geospatial training set relating the charcoal signal in surface lake sediments to fire parameters (number, intensity and area) recorded by satellite moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors. Our calibration is intended for quantitative reconstructions of key fire-regime parameters by using sediment sequences of microscopic (MIC from pollen slides, particles 10–500 µm) and macroscopic charcoal (MAC from sieves, particles > 100 µm). Location: North–south and east–west transects across Europe, covering the mediterranean, temperate, alpine, boreal and steppe biomes. Time period: Lake sediments and MODIS active fire and burned area products were collected for the years 2012–2015. Methods: Cylinder sediment traps were installed in lakes to annually collect charcoal particles in sediments. We quantitatively assessed the relationships between MIC and MAC influx (particles/cm2/year) and the MODIS-derived products to identify source areas of charcoal and the extent to which lake-sediment charcoal is linked to fire parameters across the continent. Results: Source area of sedimentary charcoal was estimated to a 40-km radius around sites for both MIC and MAC particles. Fires occurred in grasslands and in forests, with grass morphotypes of MAC accurately reflecting the burned fuel-type. Despite the lack of local fires around the sites, MAC influx levels reached those reported for local fires. Both MIC and MAC showed strong and highly significant relationships with the MODIS-derived fire parameters, as well as with climatic variation along a latitudinal temperature gradient. Main conclusions: MIC and MAC are suited to quantitatively reconstructing fire number and fire intensity on a regional scale. However, burned area may only be estimated using MAC. Local fires may be identified by using several lines of evidence, e.g. analysis of large particles (> 600 µm), magnetic susceptibility and sedimentological data. Our results offer new insights and applications to quantitatively reconstruct fires and to interpret available sedimentary charcoal records.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)199-212
    JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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