GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016
Paper No. 162-51
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
EXPLORING NEW METHODOLOGIES FOR STUDYING PALEOWILDFIRE
MUDDIMAN, Benjamin B., Integrative Biology & University of California Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley, 1005 Valley Life Science Building #3140, Berkeley, CA 94720 and LOOY, Cindy V., Integrative Biology & University of California Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley, 1101 Valley Life Sciences Building, Berkeley, CA 94720, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pennsylvanian is well known for its rich plant fossil record in the equatorial tropics, which captures numerous in situ T0 assemblages that allow for detailed landscape reconstructions. Among the many interesting paleoecological aspects of this time period is the history of paleowildfire based on charcoal and other proxy evidence. While several studies have highlighted the importance of fire in Pennsylvanian landscapes, our understanding of its role is hampered by limited knowledge of wildfire behavior under appropriate atmospheric conditions. During the Pennsylvanian atmospheric oxygen levels where probably elevated compared to the Present Atmospheric Level of ~21%. The behavior of wildfire under such “hyperoxic” conditions and the combustion characteristics of fuel sources in these paleo-landscapes are only partially understood. My main interest lies in understanding the function of paleowildfire as one of the main agents shaping wetland and seasonally dry ecosystems of Pennsylvanian Euramerica.
I would like to study the combustion of various paleofuel analogs under a variety of atmospheric and environmental conditions by controlling gas composition, heat source, fuel bed layout, relative humidity, and temperature. The output of such experimental work will be used in conjunction with modern wildfire-modeling computer programs to provide quantitative, spatially explicit reconstructions of hypothetical paleowildfire events. These computer programs provide an important tool for fire management agencies and fire ecology researchers across the globe. As our understanding of the physical behavior of wildfire and associated fuel sources continues to develop, the usefulness of these models in understanding landscape-scale impacts of wildfire is also increasing. The application of such models to paleoecological research presents an exciting new avenue for better understanding paleowildfire as well as possible non-analog fire regimes of the past.