Abstract / Description of output
Charcoal occurrence is extensively used as a tool for understanding wildfires over geological timescales. Yet, the fossil charcoal literature to date rarely considers that fire alone is capable of creating a bias in the abundance and nature of charcoal it creates, before it even becomes incorporated into the fossil record. In this study we have used state-of-the-art calorimetry to experimentally produce charcoal from 20 species that represent a range of surface fuels and growth habits, as a preliminary step towards assessing whether different fuel types (and plant organs) are equally likely to remain as charcoal post-fire. We observe that charcoal production appears to be species specific, and is related to the intrinsic physical and chemical properties of a given fuel. Our observations therefore suggest that some taxa are likely to be overrepresented in fossil charcoal assemblages (i.e. needle-shed conifers, tree ferns) and others poorly represented, or not preserved at all (i.e. broad shoot-shed conifers, weedy angiosperms, shrub angiosperms, some ferns). Our study highlights the complexity of charcoal production in modern fuels and we consider what a bias in charcoal production may mean for our understanding of palaeowildfires.
Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)
- fuel type
- fossil charcoal
- ATMOSPHERIC OXYGEN