Long-term forest fire ecology and dynamics in southern Switzerland

Tinner, Willy; Hubschmid, Priska; Wehrli, Michael; Ammann, Brigitta; Conedera, Marco (1999). Long-term forest fire ecology and dynamics in southern Switzerland. Journal of Ecology, 87(2), pp. 273-289. Wiley 10.1046/j.1365-2745.1999.00346.x

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1 Pollen and charcoal analysis at two lakes in southern Switzerland revealed that fire has had a prominent role in changing the woodland composition of this area for more than 7000 years.

2 The sediment of Lago di Origlio for the period between 5100 and 3100 bc cal. was sampled continuously with a time interval of about 10 years. Peaks of charcoal particles were significantly correlated with repeated declines in pollen of Abies, Hedera, Tilia, Ulmus, Fraxinus excelsior t., Fagus and Vitis and with increases in Alnus glutinosa t., shrubs (e.g. Corylus, Salix and Sambucus nigra t.) and several herbaceous species. The final disappearance of the lowland Abies alba stands at around 3150 bc cal. may be an example of a fire-caused local extinction of a fire-intolerant species.

3 Forest fires tended to diminish pollen diversity. The charcoal peaks were preceded by pollen types indicating human activity. Charcoal minima occurred during periods of cold humid climate, when fire susceptibility would be reduced.

4 An increase of forest fires at about 2100 bc cal. severely reduced the remaining fire-sensitive plants: the mixed-oak forest was replaced by a fire-tolerant alder–oak forest. The very strong increase of charcoal influx, and the marked presence of anthropogenic indicators, point to principally anthropogenic causes.

5 We suggest that without anthropogenic disturbances Abies alba would still form lowland forests together with various deciduous broadleaved tree taxa.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


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:

Tinner, Willy, Wehrli, Michael, Ammann, Brigitta


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)








Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

11 Mar 2016 11:06

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:52

Publisher DOI:






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