The role of human-induced fire and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) cultivation on the long-term landscape dynamics of the southern Swiss Alps

Morales del Molino, Cesar; Vescovi, E.; Krebs, P.; Carlevaro, E.; Boltshauser-Kaltenrieder, Petra; Conedera, M.; Tinner, Willy; Colombaroli, Daniele (2015). The role of human-induced fire and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) cultivation on the long-term landscape dynamics of the southern Swiss Alps. Holocene, 25(3), pp. 482-494. Sage 10.1177/0959683614561884

[img] Text
The Holocene-2015-Morales-Molino-482-94.pdf - Published Version
Restricted to registered users only
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (1MB) | Request a copy

Changes in fire occurrence during the last decades in the southern Swiss Alps make knowledge on fire history essential to understand future evolution of the ecosystem composition and functioning. In this context, palaeoecology provides useful insights into processes operating at decadal-to-millennial time scales, such as the response of plant communities to intensified fire disturbances during periods of cultural change. We provide a high-resolution macroscopic charcoal and pollen series from Guèr, a well-dated peat sequence at mid-elevation (832 m.a.s.l.) in southern Switzerland, where the presence of local settlements is documented since the late Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Quantitative fire reconstruction shows that fire activity sharply increased from the Neolithic period (1–3 episodes/1000 year) to the late Bronze and Iron Age (7–9 episodes/1000 year), leading to extensive clearance of the former mixed deciduous forest (Alnus glutinosa, Betula, deciduous Quercus). The increase in anthropogenic pollen indicators (e.g. Cerealia-type, Plantago lanceolata) together with macroscopic charcoal suggests anthropogenic rather than climatic forcing as the main cause of the observed vegetation shift. Fire and controlled burning were extensively used during the late Roman Times and early Middle Ages to promote the introduction and establishment of chestnut (Castanea sativa) stands, which provided an important wood and food supply. Fire occurrence declined markedly (from 9 to 5–6 episodes/1000 year) during late Middle Ages because of fire suppression, biomass removal by human population, and landscape fragmentation. Land-abandonment during the last decades allowed forest to partly re-expand (mainly Alnus glutinosa, Betula) and fire frequency to increase.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Palaeoecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Morales del Molino, Cesar; Boltshauser-Kaltenrieder, Petra; Tinner, Willy and Colombaroli, Daniele

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

0959-6836

Publisher:

Sage

Language:

English

Submitter:

Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

13 Feb 2015 07:56

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2017 14:15

Publisher DOI:

10.1177/0959683614561884

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.62993

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/62993

Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback