Holocene Vegetation and Fire Dynamics on the Chilcotin Plateau, BC, Canada

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Kendrick J Brown, Natural Resources Canada - Canadian Forest Service, Edmonton, AB, Canada, Richard Hebda, Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, BC, Canada and Brad Hawkes, Natural Resources Canada - Canadian Forest Service, Victoria, BC, Canada
The Chilcotin Plateau is a high elevation plateau in the west central interior of British Columbia, Canada. It is characterised by a continental climate and located in a rainshadow setting. Pine-dominated forests dominate. The region is prone to frequent fires and mountain pine beetle outbreaks. Several surface sediment cores and an overlapping Livingstone sediment core were collected from centrally-located Scum Lake and analysed for pollen, charcoal and insect remains. During the early-Holocene warm-dry interval, a non-arboreal vegetation community dominated by grass and sage dominated and surface fire disturbance was frequent. Model predictions suggest that non-arboreal vegetation may expand in this region in the future, suggesting that the fire regime will likewise change as in the early-Holocene. In the mid-Holocene, pine, possibly Pinus ponderosa, increased in abundance, suggesting that a surface fire regime persisted at that time. Pinus contorta pollen increased in the late-Holocene, representing the establishment of the modern forest and mixed/crown fire regime. Fire return intervals typically ranged between 20-100 years, consistent with tree-ring based observation (40-70 years). Analyses of the surface cores revealed that identifiable mountain pine beetle remains were rare, suggesting that alternative approaches may be required to assess to insect disturbance through time.