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A comparison of charcoal measurements for reconstruction of Mediterranean paleo-fire frequency in the mountains of Corsica

  • Bérangère Leys (a1) (a2), Christopher Carcaillet (a1) (a2), Laurent Dezileau (a3), Adam A. Ali (a2) (a4) and Richard H.W. Bradshaw (a5)...

Fire-history reconstructions inferred from sedimentary charcoal records are based on measuring sieved charcoal fragment area, estimating fragment volume, or counting fragments. Similar fire histories are reconstructed from these three approaches for boreal lake sediment cores, using locally defined thresholds. Here, we test the same approach for a montane Mediterranean lake in which taphonomical processes might differ from boreal lakes through fragmentation of charcoal particles. The Mediterranean charcoal series are characterized by highly variable charcoal accumulation rates. Results there indicate that the three proxies do not provide comparable fire histories. The differences are attributable to charcoal fragmentation. This could be linked to fire type (crown or surface fires) or taphonomical processes, including charcoal transportation in the catchment area or in the sediment. The lack of correlation between the concentration of charcoal and of mineral matter suggests that fragmentation is not linked to erosion. Reconstructions based on charcoal area are more robust and stable than those based on fragment counts. Area-based reconstructions should therefore be used instead of the particle-counting method when fragmentation may influence the fragment abundance.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author at: Paleoenvironments and Chronoecology (PALECO EPHE) Ecole Pratique des Hautes Études, Institut de Botanique, 163 rue Broussonet, F-34090 Montpellier, France. E-mail address: (B. Leys).
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