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Article

Fire Suppression Impacts on Fuels and Fire Intensity in the Western U.S.: Insights from Archaeological Luminescence Dating in Northern New Mexico

1
Department of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275, USA
2
Department of Geosciences, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
3
Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
4
U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK 99508, USA
5
Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
6
School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 8 June 2020 / Revised: 19 July 2020 / Accepted: 19 July 2020 / Published: 20 July 2020
Here, we show that the last century of fire suppression in the western U.S. has resulted in fire intensities that are unique over more than 900 years of record in ponderosa pine forests (Pinus ponderosa). Specifically, we use the heat-sensitive luminescence signal of archaeological ceramics and tree-ring fire histories to show that a recent fire during mild weather conditions was more intense than anything experienced in centuries of frequent wildfires. We support this with a particularly robust set of optically stimulated luminescence measurements on pottery from an archaeological site in northern New Mexico. The heating effects of an October 2012 CE prescribed fire reset the luminescence signal in all 12 surface samples of archaeological ceramics, whereas none of the 10 samples exposed to at least 14 previous fires (1696–1893 CE) revealed any evidence of past thermal impact. This was true regardless of the fire behavior contexts of the 2012 CE samples (crown, surface, and smoldering fires). It suggests that the fuel characteristics from fire suppression at this site have no analog during the 550 years since the depopulation of this site or the 350 years of preceding occupation of the forested landscape of this region. View Full-Text
Keywords: single-grain optical dating; fire effects; fire regimes; surface archaeology; Southwest US single-grain optical dating; fire effects; fire regimes; surface archaeology; Southwest US
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MDPI and ACS Style

Roos, C.I.; Rittenour, T.M.; Swetnam, T.W.; Loehman, R.A.; Hollenback, K.L.; Liebmann, M.J.; Rosenstein, D.D. Fire Suppression Impacts on Fuels and Fire Intensity in the Western U.S.: Insights from Archaeological Luminescence Dating in Northern New Mexico. Fire 2020, 3, 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/fire3030032

AMA Style

Roos CI, Rittenour TM, Swetnam TW, Loehman RA, Hollenback KL, Liebmann MJ, Rosenstein DD. Fire Suppression Impacts on Fuels and Fire Intensity in the Western U.S.: Insights from Archaeological Luminescence Dating in Northern New Mexico. Fire. 2020; 3(3):32. https://doi.org/10.3390/fire3030032

Chicago/Turabian Style

Roos, Christopher I., Tammy M. Rittenour, Thomas W. Swetnam, Rachel A. Loehman, Kacy L. Hollenback, Matthew J. Liebmann, and Dana D. Rosenstein 2020. "Fire Suppression Impacts on Fuels and Fire Intensity in the Western U.S.: Insights from Archaeological Luminescence Dating in Northern New Mexico" Fire 3, no. 3: 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/fire3030032

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