Maezumi SY, Gosling WD, Kirschner J, Chevalier M, Cornelissen HL, Heinecke T, McMichael CNH. 2021. A modern analogue matching approach to characterize fire temperatures and plant species from charcoal. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 578:110580. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2021.110580
For those of you I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Yoshi Maezumi. I have recently been awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship for my research proposal FIRE: Fire Intensity in Rainforest Ecotones. I will have the honor of working with an extraordinary team of international, interdisciplinary researchers including Will Gosling, Crystal McMichael, Emiel van Loon, and Boris Jansen from the University of Amsterdam, Boris Vannière from the Université de Franche-Comté, Jose Iriarte from the University of Exeter, and Francisco Cruz from the University of São Paulo. Together we will examine the long-term role of fire in shaping Amazon Rainforest Ecotones.
My research is focused on paleofire (fire in the past) in Neotropical savanna and rainforest ecosystems. My current post-doctoral research at the University of Exeter is investigating the role indigenous fire management practices had on shaping the composition, structure, and flammability of modern Amazonian rainforests.
Recently introduced to a book by Bill Gammage entitled The Biggest Estate on Earth: How the Aborigines Made Australia. Gammage identifies five uses of indigenous fire: 1) to control wildfire fuel; 2) to maintain diversity; 3) to balance species; 4) to ensure abundance; 5) to locate resources conveniently and predictably. Gammage argues that our current regime is struggling with number one. These stages of fire management provide some really interesting food for thought for my Marie Curie Fellowship as I aim to develop new paleoecological techniques to analyze paleofire that will be used to model natural and anthropogenic drivers of paleofire activity.
I have been thinking a lot about what we do and do not know about paleofire. One of the ways we reconstruct past fire activity is through the use of charcoal preserved in lake sediments. Charcoal can tell us a lot about what past fires were like including what kind of plants were burning, how often fires occurred, and potentially how big a fire was. One of the more elusive components is paleofire intensity, or how hot a particular fire was. The temperature of a fire has important ecological implications, as hotter fires tend to cause more ecological damage. Lots of factors can contribute to fire intensity including droughts, fuel loads, vegetation composition and structure, fuel moisture, etc. All of this is to say that, fire intensity is complicated. Nevertheless, one of the main objectives of my Marie Curie research will be to compile what we currently know about the effect of modern fire intensity on the charcoal formation to figure out how that information can be used to interpret charcoal from the palaeorecord.
If you would like to join me on this ‘intense’ paleofire journey, (punny, I know, I just couldn’t resist), I am starting a weekly science blog called Her Science that will highlight the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of my Marie Curie research over the next few years.