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Data from: Does fuel type influence the amount of charcoal produced in wildfires? Implications for the fossil record

Citation

Hudspith, Victoria A.; Hadden, Rory M.; Bartlett, Alastair I.; Belcher, Claire M. (2018), Data from: Does fuel type influence the amount of charcoal produced in wildfires? Implications for the fossil record, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.g2fm2

Abstract

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 twenty 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.

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