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The analysis of charcoal in peat and organic sediments

Author(s): S.D. Mooney | W. Tinner

Journal: Mires and Peat
ISSN 1819-754X

Volume: 7;
Issue: 09;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: fire history | image processing | macroscopic charcoal | microscopic charcoal

The abundance of charcoal in sediments has been interpreted as a ‘fire history’ at about 1,000 sites across the globe. This research effort reflects the importance of fire in many ecosystems, and the diversity of processes that can be affected by fire in many landscapes. Fire appears to reflect climate through the intermediary of vegetation, but arguably responds faster than vegetation to climate change or variability. Fire and humans are also intricately linked, meaning that the activity of fire in the past is also of relevance to prehistoric and historic human transitions and to contemporary natural resource management. This article describes recent advances in the analysis of charcoal in peat and other sediments, and offers a simple method for the quantification of larger charcoal fragments (>100 µm) and a standardised method for the quantification of microscopic charcoal on pollen slides. We also comment on the challenges that the discipline still faces.

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