Fire is one of the major forces that influences vegetation type and ecosystem dynamics of an area. Reconstructing past fire regimes can help us understand not only about the type of plants that were once in an area and how they responded to fire, but also how best resource and landscape management practices can be employed to preserve present ecosystems under a changing climate. This research contributes to the reconstruction of a mid-Holocene fire record from Verlorenvlei, South Africa, a dry west coast site in South Africa's Fynbos biome. The paleofire reconstruction provides insight into fire frequency, fire intensity, and fuel type, and the study of charcoal morphology (the shape of the particles) and morphometry (length:width ratio of the particles) is a method used to determine the types of vegetation that were burned. In this project, the morphometric analysis of macroscopic charcoal particles from lake sediments in tandem with the analysis of charcoal particles collected from experimental burning of modern plant reference material was used to understand vegetation change around Verlorenvlei, and may shed light on other metrics of interest to the paleofire community, such as wildfire temperature and intensity. Work is underway to experimentally burn fynbos vegetation at the Natural History Museum of Utah. This research adds to a developing body of work exploring charcoal morphometry and fire history in South Africa, and will be compared to charcoal morphometrics from a more humid and wet portion of South Africa's Fynbos biome along the southern coast. Together, these findings will help us understand how the vast diversity of plants in South Africa's Fynbos biome is reflected in the charcoal record.
University / Institution: University of Utah
Format: In Person
SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)
Area of Research: Science & Technology
Faculty Mentor: Stella Mosher