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Can scar-based fire history reconstructions be biased? An experimental study in boreal Scots pine

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Determining forest fire history is commonly based on fire scar dating with dendrochronological methods. We used an experimental setup to investigate the impacts of low-intensity prescribed fire on fire scar formation 8 years after fire in 12 young managed Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) stands. Five stands were between 30 and 35 years old and seven were 45 years old at the time of burning. A total of 217 fire scars were recorded in 142 trees. The number of separate scars per tree originating from a single fire ranged from 1 to 6, with 67% of the trees having just one scar. The proportion of fire-scarred trees out of all trees per plot ranged from 0% to 30%, averaging 16.5% in young stands and 2.8% in older stands. Four of the 12 burned plots did not have any trees with fire scars, and these were all in the older age group. This means that in the older stands, in only three of seven plots (43%) did the fire leave scars from which fire can potentially be detected and dated afterwards. Our results suggest that fire scar dating in Scots pine dominated forests may underestimate fire frequency, area, and the importance of historically common low-intensity surface fires in dendrochronological reconstructions of past fire histories.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Forest Sciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 27 FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland. 2: HAMK, University of Applied Sciences, Saarelantie 1, Lammi 16970, Finland. 3: Finnish Forest Research Institute, Vantaa Research Centre, Jokiniemenkuja 1, P.O. Box 18, FIN-01301 Vantaa, Finland.

Publication date: 2013-04-25

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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