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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Marginal imprint of human land use upon fire history in a mire-dominated boreal landscape of the Veps Highland, North-West Russia

Drobyshev, I.; Ryzhkova, N.; Niklasson, M.; Zhukov, A.; Mullonen, I.; Pinto, G.; Kryshen', A.


Dendrochronological reconstructions inform us about historical climate-fire-human interactions, providing a means to calibrate projections of future fire hazard. Most of these reconstructions, however, have been developed in landscapes with a considerable proportion of xeric sites that could potentially inflate our estimates of the historic levels of fire activity. We provide a 420-year long reconstruction of fires in a mire-dominated landscape of the Veps Nature Park, North-West Russia. The area has mostly escaped large-scale forestry operations in the past and is an example of pristine mid-boreal vegetation with a high (approximately 30% for the area studied) proportion of waterlogged areas with ombrotropic mires. The historical fire cycle was 91.4 years (90% confidence intervals, CI 66.2-137.6 years) over the 1580-1720 period, decreasing to 35.9 (CI 28.1-47.6 years) between 1730 and 1770, and then increasing again to 122.7 years (CI 91.0-178.0 years) over the 1780-2000 period. Early season fires dominated over late season fires during the reconstruction period. We documented a higher fire activity period between 1730 and 1780, resulting from the increase in early season fires. This period coincided with one of the largest multi-decadal declines in the reconstructed spring precipitation since 1600 CE, although we found no significant relationship between fire and precipitation over the whole reconstructed period. The nine largest fire years were associated with negative summer precipitation and positive summer temperature anomalies over the study region. Land-use history of the area did not appear to have an effect on historical fire dynamics. Modern (1996-2016) fire records indicate a regional fire cycle of ~ 1300 years, featuring a pronounced pattern with early (April-May) and late (July-September) season fires. The uniform fire cycle in the area since 1780, occurrence of nine largest fire years during years with spring-summer droughts, and low ignition frequencies over the last 420 years (0.005 to 0.037 ignitions per year and km2) suggest that the fire regime of the Veps Highland remained largely natural until the onset of the 20th century.


Land use; Natural disturbance regimes; Boreal ecology; Climate change; Taiga; Slash-and-burn

Published in

Forest Ecology and Management
2022, Volume: 507, article number: 120007Publisher: ELSEVIER