Reconstructing Fire Frequency in Peatlands of Northern Michigan

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Dominic. M. Uhelski , Evan. S. Kane, Rodney. A. Chimner

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Fire has numerous impacts on peatland structure and function. Peat fires and peat fire suppression across the globe have prompted land managers to question the natural fire history of peatlands under their purview. There are a variety of techniques available to reconstruct fire frequency by detecting remnant charcoal, but those which function well in peat are expensive and time consuming, limiting the scope or accessibility of many research questions. We have developed a new method to address these issues and to answer the question of peatland fire regime using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). This method is comparatively economical and fast, enabling peatland fire research with expanded scope. Combining our char predictive FTIR model with carbon dating, we can estimate fire return interval for individual peatlands and detect trends in fire regime with location and peat type. This also allows peat and carbon accumulation to be related to fire regime. These data provide a long term historical and ecological basis for fire management plans in peatlands, and our method makes peatland fire regime reconstruction more accessible than ever. We describe the method and present results from our work in peatlands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, connecting fire frequency with peat accumulation rates and present condition. This data contributes to informing land managers and policy makers who seek to understand fire in peatlands.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program