Frequent burning in chir pine forests, Uttarakhand, India

Peter Z. Fulé, Satish C. Garkoti, Rajeev L. Semwal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Subtropical coniferous forests of the lesser Himalaya provide critical ecosystem services but fire regimes have received limited scientific attention. We reconstructed fire regimes using tree-ring methods in a chir pine (Pinus roxburghii Sarg.) forest of Uttarakhand, India. We cross-dated tree-ring samples with fire scars from 36 trees at three sites near rural villages between 1535 and 1848 m elevation. Results: Fires were highly frequent (mean fire intervals all <6 yr) but of low severity, so most mature trees of this thick-barked species survived numerous burns. Fire scars occurred primarily in the dormant period to the middle of early wood formation in tree-rings, consistent with fire season records. Despite the high fire frequency, fires were mostly asynchronous among the three sites, indicating a bottom-up pattern of local ignitions. We observed that resin tapping of the pines interacted with surface fire by allowing fire to burn into the wood of some tapped trees and weaken their structural integrity to the point of breakage. Conclusions: Ongoing frequent surface fire regimes linked to human land use are prominent disturbance factors in chir pine forests. Given that these forests support substantial human populations and form part of the watershed for many more people, the effects of anthropogenic fire and interactions with resin-tapping merit further investigation at landscape to regional scales. We suggest developing a research network in Himalayan forests as well as more broadly across southeast Asian pine forests to track interacting disturbances and their ecological and social implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalFire Ecology
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • dendrochronology
  • fire regime
  • fire scar
  • Himalaya
  • Pinus roxburghii
  • resin tapping
  • rural

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)

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