Fire History of the Southern United States and Changes Through Time

Cherokee Village Sketch Historic drawing of a Native American village in the southeastern United States
Painting by Lloyd Kenneth Townsend

In response to Jim Furnish’s comment, I found this fascinating paper on fire history in South America and Native Americans. Quite a bit of interesting information. I had no idea that buffalo migrated into the area after 1500. Of course I didn’t know the buffalo was there.

Some historical texts mention fire without comment Whether or not it is prepared on purpose or on purpose.
White (1600, cited in Russell 1983), for example, from Ito As he searches for the colony, the ship smokes. On Roanoke. They describe other possible habitats. Large treeless zones, including sugar cane breaks, are protected by fire Park-like forests and pastures occupied by grazing buffalo. Over the decades, the dry fields have grown into forests After the Indians left the area (Day 1953; Maxwell 1910). and Indians lacked metal tools for logging (Bass 2002). Support the idea that Native Americans used fire Clear the forests. Wide open spaces or lawns in western Virginia and on the Virginia-North Carolina line deWritten as if Beverly (1947) And Lederer (1891) mentioned in Maxwell 1910), traveled through various parts of the VirGenia in 1669 and 1670. In 1705, Beverly (1947) explained Hundreds of acres in the Piedmont of Virginia.
In the 1720s, Mark Catesby said they were there in the Carolinas There were large fields with overgrown grass (Barden 1997). in Ashley County, Arkansas Survey Records from the Gen Note the presence of land office lawns (Bragg 2003). Several sources, including George Washington Articles From 1752 (Brown 2000), mention the large grasslands in Concluding that the Shenandoah Valley and Indians used fire (FalLam 1998; Fontaine 1998; Maxwell 1910). Presence It provides indirect evidence that the buffalo in the southeast were widespread.Due to the burning practices of India, it spread grassland. The buffalo migrated to the region after 1500 AD. Their eastward movement was probably the Open spaces created by anthropogenic burning and deprivation A condition after the decline of the population of India European diseases (DeVivo 1991; Bass 2002).


Isolation of fires from southern landscapes has occurred Changes in plants. While fires are less common, Forests began to regenerate or the composition of the existing Forests began to change. Appalachian hardwoods Almost completely recovered from the fire Harmful effects on fire-resistant oak and fire-resistant pine stands (Brose et al. 2001a). The formation of oak trees (Q. rubra, Q. Dawn) was previously facilitated by the native. American fire—perhaps for thousands of years—and by Pruning, burning and chest knot since the puppy ageRope settlement until the early 20th century.
However, these sites have fire protection They were invaded by late-occurring species. Abrams and others. (1995) He studied old-growth white pine (P. strobus) and mixed oak
A community in southern West Virginia and came to the coneIncluding fire and other frequent violence is the mainThis forest has been degraded for the past 300 years. After being excluded
Fire, oak recruitment stopped for maple (mainly Acer red), Beach (Fagus grandifoliaand hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Today, the areas that have been cut since 1930
They are usually occupied by maples (Red maple, A. Sugar), yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) and hickory (Caria spp.). Only in dry or nutrient-poor areas do oaks regrow.
Successfully destroy (Lorimer 1993).


And from Norm Christensen at Duke.

Analysis of charcoal samples shows that fires occurred frequently before 1,000 years ago. This Mississippian tradition coincides with the emergence of Native Americans, who used fire to clear brush and improve hunting habitat, Christensen said.

Following the disappearance of the Mississippian population 250 years ago and the arrival of European settlers, wildfires have become less frequent at the site. In the last 75 years, active fire suppression policies and increased landscape fragmentation have led to a decrease in fire frequency in the region, a trend that is reflected in the samples of the study area.

The relative absence of fire over the past 250 years has dramatically changed forest composition and structure, Christensen said.

“The plants we see in the region today are very different from those thousands or even hundreds of years ago,” he said. “Early explorers and settlers often described well-drained woodlands with high-frequency, low-intensity fires in open grasslands, and a proliferation of fire-adapted species such as oak, hickory, and chestnut, along with pitch pine and other (low moisture) ridges. Today, it is becoming more moderate – we find many species that are typical of humid ecosystems.

Beyond any natural historical and scientific interest, knowing more about pre-settlement fire regimes in the region will help forest managers understand the species’ response to the use of prescribed fire for low-fuel management today, Christensen said.

However, due to extensive changes in the forest and climate changes caused by centuries of fire suppression and other human activities, “a particular fire may or may not be the same as previous fires,” he warned. . Fires today burn hotter and longer than fires of the past.

“Also, although history tells us what can be restored, it does not tell us what. must be. It will be renewed,” he added. “It depends on which species, habitats and ecosystems we want to save.”


I agree with Norm’s last sentence.

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