NATO Advanced Study Institute

Sediment Records of Biomass Burning and Global Change

Praia de Alvor, Algarve, Portugal, 11-14 October 1994

Fifty scientists from North America, Eurasia, and Australia gathered in Praia de Alvor, Algarve, Portugal, 11-14 October 1994, in a NATO Advanced Study Institute (ASI) for an assessment of the role of biomass burning during past changes in climate, vegetation, and land use. This interdisciplinary group of paleoecologists, environmental historians, fire ecologists and managers, atmospheric scientists, and organic chemists presented and debated three of the principle challenges to the interpretation of long term burning from sediments. These challenges are

– Characterization of combustion products embedded in organic sediment matrices

– Description of the production and transport of emissions, and

– Synthesis of existing sediment records.

Problems characterizing combustion emissions in sediments have not only made it difficult to document past burning, but also to estimate the amount of carbon that is sequestered in recalcitrant elemental forms. The relative merits of microscopy, chemical, and thermal assays were compared. Atmospheric scientists used recent developments in mesoscale transport and empirical evidence from controlled burns to argue that even relatively “large” particles might frequently be transported long distances. Paleoecologists presented evidence to suggest that these particles represent principally local sources and therefore can be used to interpret local fires. Numerous examples were presented where known fires have been well documented by sediment combustion records at local scales. Regional syntheses showed a high degree of geographic coherency in the accumulation of combustion products.

The Advanced Study Institute Group

The results of the ASI were synthesized in a volume edited by the group of the workshop conveners under the lead of James S. Clark, Duke University, Department of Botany, published in 1997:

  • Clark, J.S., H. Cachier, J.G. Goldammer, and B.J. Stocks (eds.). 1997. Sediment records of biomass burning and global change. Springer-Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg-New York, 489 pp. (ISBN 3-540-62434-1, DM 248.00)

Contents of the volume (PDF, 0.5 MB)

Book order through Springer.

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