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Tracking land-cover changes with sedimentary charcoal in the Afrotropics

Aleman J., Blarquez O., Bentaleb I., Bonté P., Brossier B., Carcaillet C., Gond V., Gourlet-Fleury S., Kpolita A., Lefèvre I., Oslisly R., Power M.J., Yongo O.D., Bremond L., Favier C.. 2013. Holocene, 23 (12) : p. 1853-1862.

Fires have played an important role in creating and maintaining savannas over the centuries and are also one of the main natural disturbances in forests. The functional role of fires in savannas and forests can be investigated through examining sedimentary charcoal in order to reconstruct long-term fire history. However, the relationship between charcoal and vegetation structure in tropical grassy ecosystems remains to be elucidated. Here, we compared recent charcoal records from lake sediments in three tropical ecosystems (forest, savanna, and forest-savanna mosaic) with land cover inferred from remote-sensing images. Charcoal width-to-length (W/L) ratio is a good proxy for changes in fuel type. At one of the lakes, a significant W/L modification from values >0.5 (mainly wood) to <0.5 (¿grass) was recorded simultaneously with changes in land cover. Indeed, a significant deforestation was recorded around this lake in the remote-sensing imagery between 1984 and 1994. The results also indicate that a riparian forest around a lake could act as a physical filter for charcoal accumulation; we used the mean charcoal size as a proxy to evaluate this process. Charcoal Accumulation Rates (CHAR), a burned biomass proxy, were combined with W/L ratio and the mean charcoal size to investigate the land-use history of the landscapes surrounding the study sites. This combined approach allowed us to distinguish between episodic slash-and-burn practices in the forest and managed fields or pastures burning frequently. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : filtration; sédiment; paysage; Écosystème; charbon de bois; télédétection; aménagement forestier; utilisation des terres; végétation; incendie de forêt; incendie spontané; forêt tropicale; savane

Thématique : Foresterie - Considérations générales; Ecologie végétale; Autres thèmes

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