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Charcoal-inferred Holocene fire and vegetation history linked to drought periods in the Democratic Republic of Congo

(2015) GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY. 21(6). p.2296-2308
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Abstract
The impact of Holocene drought events on the presumably stable Central African rainforest remains largely unexplored, in particular the significance of fire. High-quality sedimentary archives are scarce, and palynological records mostly integrate over large regional scales subject to different fire regimes. Here, we demonstrate a direct temporal link between Holocene droughts, palaeofire and vegetation change within present-day Central African rainforest, using records of identified charcoal fragments extracted from soil in the southern Mayumbe forest (Democratic Republic of Congo). We find three distinct periods of local palaeofire occurrence: 7.8-6.8ka BP, 2.3-1.5ka BP, 0.8ka BP - present. These periods are linked to well-known Holocene drought anomalies: the 8.2ka BP event, the 3rd millennium BP rainforest crisis and the Mediaeval Climate Anomaly. During and after these Holocene droughts, the Central African rainforest landscape was characterized by a fragmented pattern with fire-prone open patches. Some fires occurred during the drought anomalies although most fires seem to lag behind them, which suggests that the open patches remained fire-prone after the actual climate anomalies. Charcoal identifications indicate that mature rainforest patches did persist through the Early to Mid-Holocene climatic transition, the subsequent Holocene thermal optimum and the third millennium BP rainforest crisis, until 0.8ka BP. However, disturbance and fragmentation were probably more prominent near the boundary of the southern Mayumbe forest. Furthermore, the dominance of pioneer and woodland savanna taxa in younger charcoal assemblages indicates that rainforest regeneration was hampered by increasingly severe drought conditions after 0.8ka BP. These results support the notion of a dynamic forest ecosystem at multicentury time scales across the Central African rainforest.
Keywords
wood anatomy, vegetation history, EQUATORIAL EAST-AFRICA, RAIN-FOREST FRAGMENTATION, SOUTHERN CAMEROON, CLIMATIC CHANGES, BP, SITES, PALEOENVIRONMENTS, IDENTIFICATION, VARIABILITY, ARCHAEOLOGY, palaeoenvironment, palaeobotany, fire, Central Africa, charcoal analysis

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Citation

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Chicago
Hubau, Wannes, Jan Van den Bulcke, Joris Van Acker, and Hans Beeckman. 2015. “Charcoal-inferred Holocene Fire and Vegetation History Linked to Drought Periods in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Global Change Biology 21 (6): 2296–2308.
APA
Hubau, W., Van den Bulcke, J., Van Acker, J., & Beeckman, H. (2015). Charcoal-inferred Holocene fire and vegetation history linked to drought periods in the Democratic Republic of Congo. GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY, 21(6), 2296–2308.
Vancouver
1.
Hubau W, Van den Bulcke J, Van Acker J, Beeckman H. Charcoal-inferred Holocene fire and vegetation history linked to drought periods in the Democratic Republic of Congo. GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY. 2015;21(6):2296–308.
MLA
Hubau, Wannes, Jan Van den Bulcke, Joris Van Acker, et al. “Charcoal-inferred Holocene Fire and Vegetation History Linked to Drought Periods in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY 21.6 (2015): 2296–2308. Print.
@article{6870042,
  abstract     = {The impact of Holocene drought events on the presumably stable Central African rainforest remains largely unexplored, in particular the significance of fire. High-quality sedimentary archives are scarce, and palynological records mostly integrate over large regional scales subject to different fire regimes. Here, we demonstrate a direct temporal link between Holocene droughts, palaeofire and vegetation change within present-day Central African rainforest, using records of identified charcoal fragments extracted from soil in the southern Mayumbe forest (Democratic Republic of Congo). We find three distinct periods of local palaeofire occurrence: 7.8-6.8ka BP, 2.3-1.5ka BP, 0.8ka BP - present. These periods are linked to well-known Holocene drought anomalies: the 8.2ka BP event, the 3rd millennium BP rainforest crisis and the Mediaeval Climate Anomaly. During and after these Holocene droughts, the Central African rainforest landscape was characterized by a fragmented pattern with fire-prone open patches. Some fires occurred during the drought anomalies although most fires seem to lag behind them, which suggests that the open patches remained fire-prone after the actual climate anomalies. Charcoal identifications indicate that mature rainforest patches did persist through the Early to Mid-Holocene climatic transition, the subsequent Holocene thermal optimum and the third millennium BP rainforest crisis, until 0.8ka BP. However, disturbance and fragmentation were probably more prominent near the boundary of the southern Mayumbe forest. Furthermore, the dominance of pioneer and woodland savanna taxa in younger charcoal assemblages indicates that rainforest regeneration was hampered by increasingly severe drought conditions after 0.8ka BP. These results support the notion of a dynamic forest ecosystem at multicentury time scales across the Central African rainforest.},
  author       = {Hubau, Wannes and Van den Bulcke, Jan and Van Acker, Joris and Beeckman, Hans},
  issn         = {1354-1013},
  journal      = {GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY},
  keyword      = {wood anatomy,vegetation history,EQUATORIAL EAST-AFRICA,RAIN-FOREST FRAGMENTATION,SOUTHERN CAMEROON,CLIMATIC CHANGES,BP,SITES,PALEOENVIRONMENTS,IDENTIFICATION,VARIABILITY,ARCHAEOLOGY,palaeoenvironment,palaeobotany,fire,Central Africa,charcoal analysis},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {6},
  pages        = {2296--2308},
  title        = {Charcoal-inferred Holocene fire and vegetation history linked to drought periods in the Democratic Republic of Congo},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12844},
  volume       = {21},
  year         = {2015},
}

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