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Holocene Fires in the Northern Amazon Basin

  • Juan G. Saldarriaga (a1) (a2) and Darrell C. West (a2)

The ubiquitous occurrence of charcoal in the forest soils of the Upper Rio Negro region of Colombia and Venezuela indicates the presence of frequent and widespread fires in the Amazon Basin, possibly associated with extremely dry periods or human disturbances. Charcoal ranged from 3.12 to 24.76 mg/cm3 in the upper 50 cm of soil and was more abundant in Oxisols and Ultisols than in other soil types. Charcoal dates range from 6260 yr B.P. to the present. Several dates coincide with dry phases recorded during the Holocene. Ceramic shards were found at several sites, and thermoluminescence analysis indicates that their ages range from 3750 to 460 yr B.P. The age of charcoal and shards confirms that this region has been subjected to fire and human disturbances during the past 6000 yr.

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Quaternary Research
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