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Fire and Vegetation History from the Coastal Rain Forest of the Western Oregon Coast Range

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High-resolution charcoal and pollen analyses were used to reconstruct a 4600-yr-long history of fire and vegetation near Taylor Lake in the wettest forests of coastal Oregon. Today, fires in these forests are rare because the season of ignition does not coincide with months of dry fuels. From ca. 4600 to 2700 cal yr B.P. fire episodes occurred at intervals of 140±30 yr while forest vegetation was dominated by disturbance-adapted taxa such as Alnus rubra. From ca. 2700 cal yr B.P. to the present, fire episodes have become less common, occurring at intervals of 240±30 yr, and fire-sensitive forest taxa, such as Tsuga heterophylla and Picea sitchensis, have become more prominent. Fire occurrence during the mid-Holocene was similar to that of the more xeric forests in the eastern Coast Range and suggests that summer drought was widespread. After ca. 2700 cal yr B.P., a decrease in fire episode frequency suggests that cooler conditions and possibly increased summer fog allowed the establishment of present-day Picea sitchensis forests within the watershed. These results provide evidence that fire has been an important disturbance agent in the Coast Range of Oregon, and variations in fire frequency and climate have led to the establishment of present-day forests. © 2002 University of Washington.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/qres.2002.2378

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, 97403

Publication date: November 1, 2002

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