Crosscutting Initiative 1: Asian & Africa paleofire challenges
Coordinator Mitchell Power, University of Utah, USA
The “geographical challenge” is a crosscutting initiative in the GPWG2 activities that has to be considered as a critical point in the geographical development of the GPWG network and scientific activities within the next three years. More important than simply expanding the coverage of the global charcoal database is the ability to extract meaningful information and address the key questions about fire-related issues over the world and in particular from fire-prone regions on earth such as Africa and Asia.Read more
Two workshops are planned in 2017 and 2018:
October 2017 (Nairobi, Kenya): Workshop theme: Paleofires in Savanna. The aim of the workshop is to strengthen collaborations with scientists and stakeholders from this region. This workshop will explore also the interactions of the savannah ecosystems with fire regimes on long time scales. Scientists in charge of organization: Rebecca Muthoni (National Museum of Kenya) and Mitchell Power (University of Utah). Potential Funding Sources: EAQUA, NSF.
September 2018 (Xi’an, China): Workshop theme: Fire regimes under the Asian Monsoon. The aim of the workshop is to strengthen collaborations with scientists and stakeholders from this region. This workshop will explore also the role of the Asian Monsoon influencing fire regimes on long time scales. Scientists in charge of organization: Zhihai Tan (State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Chinese Academy of Science) and Mitchell Power (University of Utah) Potential Funding Sources: Chinese Academy of Science, NSF.
Crosscutting Initiative 2: Syntheses and database development
Coordinator Boris Vannière, CNRS, Université de Franche Comté, France
Collecting, extracting, analyzing and disseminating meaningful paleoclimate and environmental data, such as paleofire reconstructions from the global charcoal database, is paramount to the PAGES mission of documenting and analyzing past climate change. The aim of the Global Charcoal Database (GCD) is to provide the scientific community a global paleofire dataset for research and archiving sedimentary records of fire. The GCD contains site and sample metadata that when used in conjunction with information about changes in vegetation distribution, yields explicit information about vegetation productivity, changes in fuel load and the completeness of burn – all of which would provide a strong constraint on simulated fire regimes and emissions. In combination with archaeological data, the charcoal records can also be used to explore the role of humans in modifying natural fire regimes. Read more
We anticipate a new call for data contributions in 2016 for a future version 4 of the GCD, and in particular to cover geographical gaps, specifically in Africa and Asia (cross-cutting initiatives 1). Additionally, the development of a new module “mGCD” (modern Global Charcoal Database) is required to integrate new data for the calibration (see cross-cutting initiative 4 below). Therefore, different metadata information will be introduced in a systematic way, using common units based on international standards, morphology, particle size, the quantification method used to measure charcoal (image analysis, point-Clark method, etc.), and the processing method applied to the sediment to extract charcoal (sieving, pollen slide procedure, etc.). The goals and tools of this crosscutting initiative are an integral part of each Focus Group activities and workshops.
Crosscutting Initiative 3: Paleofire data-model integration and links with other databases.
Coordinator Jennifer Marlon, Yale Univ., USA
Fire activity has been characterized and analyzed at a wide range of spatial scales using data about past fires from field and historical observations, dendrochronological data, satellites, ice cores, and charcoal in sediments, coupled with information about climate, vegetation, human populations, and cultural practices. Collectively, this research aims to infer the nature, causes, and impacts of fires across spatial and temporal scales. Of the available fire proxies however, only syntheses of sediment records have provide both global spatial information and decadal-to-millennial temporal information about biomass burning during both gradual and abrupt climate changes, and during major historical shifts in human populations and societies (e.g., during the expansion of agriculture in the Holocene). As a result, paleofire research has greatly advanced our understanding of the linkages of fire to both climate and humans, as well as its role as a force of long-term global environmental change. Read more
The main goal of this cross-cutting initiative is to foster collaborations with fire modelers and with researchers with expertise on other databases. Specifically, we will 1) develop time series and gridded maps that can serve as benchmarks for model comparisons for key time periods and slices, including the Last Glacial Maximum (21kya), mid-Holocene (6kya), past millennium, and past century; 2) partner with the FireMIP (Fire Model Intercomparison Project) to test models for the selected time slices; 3) combine GCD data with pollen data from Neotoma, the EPD, APD, and other pollen databases to conduct data-model comparisons that allow us to test specific hypotheses about climate, vegetation, and human controls of broad-scale fire dynamics; and 4) develop tools to quickly integrate data from multiple databases using indices that link sites and locations despite discrepancies in how sites are named, geocoded, etc. in different source databases. Such efforts will be integrated into each of the Focus Group workshops, with representatives from different modeling labs and databases attending each of the events.
Crosscutting Initiative 4: The modern Global Charcoal Database – mGCD
Coordinators: Donna Hawthorne, Ireland; Colin Courtney Mustaphi, UK; Julie Aleman, USA
The Early Career Researcher (ECR) project is driven by a group of young researchers that formed during the last GPWG workshop (October 2015, Harvard Forest) a crosscutting initiative to contribute to the future of the GPWG.Read more
The ECR project will focus on developing an international protocol for collecting and analyzing different fire proxies (charcoal, levoglucosan and black carbon) from surface sediment samples around the globe using a standardized methodology and comparable units. The data will be integrated into the GCD through an initiative called the Modern Global Charcoal Database (mGCD). The archive will target a range of ecosystems and environments including but not limited to lacustrine and marine sediment, peat deposits and glacial archives. The project will be designed to become a citizen science initiative where everyone can contribute to the database by collecting surface sediment samples from appropriate sites, and send them to designated laboratories on each continent for processing and analyses.
Results from this initiative have a strong potential to transform paleofire research by allowing the rapid development of statistical models that can link charcoal accumulation rates to modern estimates or reconstructions of fire activity at a wide range of spatial scales and in many parts of the world. Reconstructions of biomass burning would no longer be limited to simplified estimates of relative burning, and could instead be used to estimate absolute levels of burning at least where data density is sufficient. Broad international support is essential for the success of this initiative, and early career researchers are the ideal sponsors for it because it should be an ongoing initiative that can develop for decades into the future if designed well at the outset.