Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-1707
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-1707
12 Jun 2024
 | 12 Jun 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Climate of the Past (CP).

Reconstruction of Holocene and Last Interglacial vegetation dynamics and wildfire activity in southern Siberia

Jade Margerum, Julia Homann, Stuart Umbo, Gernot Nehrke, Thorsten Hoffmann, Anton Vaks, Aleksandr Kononov, Alexander Osintsev, Alena Giesche, Andrew Mason, Franziska A. Lechleitner, Gideon M. Henderson, Ola Kwiecien, and Sebastian F. M. Breitenbach

Abstract. Wildfires are a rapidly increasing threat to boreal forests. While our understanding of the drivers behind wildfires and their environmental impact is growing, it is mostly limited to the observational period. Here we focus on the boreal forests of southern Siberia, and exploit a U-Th dated stalagmite from Botovskaya cave (55.2994° N, 105.4445° E), located in the upper Lena region of southern Siberia, to document wildfire activity and vegetation dynamics during parts of two warm periods; the last interglacial (124.1 – 118.8 ka BP) and the Holocene (10 – 0 ka BP). Our record is based on levoglucosan (Lev), a biomarker sensitive to biomass burning, and on lignin oxidation products (LOPs) that discriminate between open and closed forest and hard- or softwood vegetation. In addition, we used carbon stable isotope ratios (δ13C) to evaluate soil respiration and local infiltration changes. While the δ13C record reflects a dominant control of the host rock, the Lev and LOP time series show fire pattern and vegetation type differences between the last interglacial and the Holocene. Our LOP data suggest that during the last interglacial, the region around Botovskaya cave was characterised by open forest, which by ca. 121.5 ka BP underwent a transition from fire-resistant hardwood to fire-prone softwood. The Lev record indicates that fire activity was high and increased towards the end of last interglacial just before 119 ka BP. In contrast, the Holocene was characterised by a closed-forest environment with mixed hard- and softwood vegetation. Holocene fire activity varied but at a much lower level than during the last interglacial. We attribute the changes in wildfire activity during the intervals of interest to the interplay between vegetation and climate. The open forests of the last interglacial were more likely to ignite than their closed Holocene equivalents, and their flammability was aided by warmer and drier summers and a stronger seasonal temperature contrast compared to the Holocene. Our comparison of the last two interglacial intervals suggests that with increasing global temperatures the boreal forest of southern Siberia becomes progressively more vulnerable to higher wildfire activity.

Publisher's note: Copernicus Publications remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims made in the text, published maps, institutional affiliations, or any other geographical representation in this preprint. The responsibility to include appropriate place names lies with the authors.
Jade Margerum, Julia Homann, Stuart Umbo, Gernot Nehrke, Thorsten Hoffmann, Anton Vaks, Aleksandr Kononov, Alexander Osintsev, Alena Giesche, Andrew Mason, Franziska A. Lechleitner, Gideon M. Henderson, Ola Kwiecien, and Sebastian F. M. Breitenbach

Status: open (until 07 Aug 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-1707', Anonymous Referee #1, 30 Jun 2024 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-1707', Ramesh Glückler, 17 Jul 2024 reply
  • RC3: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-1707', Anonymous Referee #3, 24 Jul 2024 reply
Jade Margerum, Julia Homann, Stuart Umbo, Gernot Nehrke, Thorsten Hoffmann, Anton Vaks, Aleksandr Kononov, Alexander Osintsev, Alena Giesche, Andrew Mason, Franziska A. Lechleitner, Gideon M. Henderson, Ola Kwiecien, and Sebastian F. M. Breitenbach
Jade Margerum, Julia Homann, Stuart Umbo, Gernot Nehrke, Thorsten Hoffmann, Anton Vaks, Aleksandr Kononov, Alexander Osintsev, Alena Giesche, Andrew Mason, Franziska A. Lechleitner, Gideon M. Henderson, Ola Kwiecien, and Sebastian F. M. Breitenbach

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Short summary
We analyse a southern Siberian stalagmite to reconstruct soil respiration, wildfire, and vegetation trends, during the last interglacial (LIG) (124.1 – 118.8 ka BP) and Holocene (10 – 0 ka BP). We show that wildfires were greater during the LIG than the Holocene and were supported by fire prone-species, low soil respiration, and a greater difference between summer and winter temperature. We show that vegetation type and summer/winter temperature contrast are strong drivers of Siberian wildfires.