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Changing fire regimes in the temperate rainforest region of southern Chile over the last 16,000 yr

Abstract

A high-resolution macroscopic charcoal record from Lago Melli (42°46′S, 73°33′W) documents the occurrence of forest fires in the lowlands of Isla Grande de Chiloé, southern Chile, over the last 16,000 yr. Our data suggest that fire activity in this region was largely modulated by the position/intensity of the southern westerlies at multi-millennial time scales. Fire activity was infrequent or absent between 16,000–11,000 and 8500–7000 cal yr BP and was maximal between ∼ 11,000–8500 and 3000–0 cal yr BP. A mosaic of Valdivian/North Patagonian rainforest species started at ∼ 6000 cal yr BP, along with a moderate increase in fire activity which intensified subsequently at 3000 cal yr BP. The modern transition between these forest communities and the occurrence of fires are largely controlled by summer moisture stress and variability, suggesting the onset of high-frequency variability in summer precipitation regimes starting at ∼ 5500 cal yr BP. Because negative anomalies in summer precipitation in this region are teleconnected with modern El Niño events, we propose that the onset of El Niño-like variability at ∼ 5700–6200 cal yr BP led to a reshuffling of rainforest communities in the lowlands of Isla Grande de Chiloé and an increase in fire activity.

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*Corresponding author. Instituto de Geociencias and Forest Ecosystem Services Research (FORECOS), Universidad Austral de Chile, PO Box 567, Valdivia, Chile. Fax: +56 63 293563.E-mail address: anaabarzua@uach.cl (A.M. Abarzúa).
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Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
  • URL: /core/journals/quaternary-research
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