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Marginal imprint of human land use upon fire history in a mire-dominated boreal landscape of the Veps Highland, North-West Russia

Cite this dataset

Drobyshev, Igor et al. (2022). Marginal imprint of human land use upon fire history in a mire-dominated boreal landscape of the Veps Highland, North-West Russia [Dataset]. Dryad.


Spatially explicit reconstructions of fire activity in European boreal forests are rare, limiting our understanding of factors driving vegetation dynamics in this part of the boreal domain. We have developed a spatially explicit dendrochronological reconstruction of a fire regime in a mire-dominated landscape of the Veps Nature Park (North-West Russia) over the 1580-2000 CE period.

We dated 74 fire years using 164 fire-scarred living and dead Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) trees collected on 31 sites. The historical fire cycle was 91.4 years (90% confidence intervals, CI 66.2–137.6 years) over the 1580–1720 period, decreasing to 35.9 (CI 28.1–47.6 years) between 1730 and 1770, and then increasing again to 122.7 years (CI 91.0–178.0 years) over the 1780–2000 period. The reconstructed forest fire history featured a number of patterns clearly deviating from the trends documented in previous Northern European reconstructions. The most striking feature was the absence of a period with increased fire activity during the 1600s, a pattern widely observed in Fennoscandia and in Russian Karelia. We noted, however, a higher fire activity period between 1730 and 1780, resulting from the increase in early season fires.

Land-use history of the area did not appear to have an effect on historical fire dynamics. The current FC in the Veps Highland is close to the estimates reported for the pre-industrial colonisation period in Fennoscandia, which suggests that the area's forests currently maintain their close-to-natural fire regime.


We sampled 31 sites, each one to two ha, during 1999, 2001 and 2004. Each fire reconstruction site represented an area of one to two hectares. To ensure an equal distribution of the sampling effort among sites, we inventoried each site for 1.5 h, by thoroughly searching the area for the presence of living and dead trees with fire scars. We used
chainsaws to extract wedges from living trees and snags and, in the case of stumps, we extracted cross-sections. We collected between five and 12 samples at each site, acquiring a total of 164 samples of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) via 69 living and 95 dead trees. All of our sites were located at least six km away from the nearest villages.


The Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, Award: RF-225121X0089

Russian Foundation for Basic Research, Award: 20-04-00568

Stiftelsen Stina Werners Foundation, Award: SSWF-17-3-Chdre

Belmont Forum, Award: PREREAL

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Award: RGPIN-2018-06637

Swedish Institute, Award: BalticFires

Karelian Research Centre