While I’ve been writing about fire history in the southwest, the issue is coming up all over. As in this last week, from Texas A&M, on using tree rings to tease out fire history in the Appalachians:
By piecing together the fire-scar record from numerous trees, he and his students and collaborators learned that fires occurred frequently, about once every 2-10 years. He found some trees with scars dating back to the mid-1600s.
As we’ve seen here, the anthropogenic influence is easily detectable:
[F]ires showed a dramatic decrease after the 1930s.
“That’s about the time the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies started to increase public awareness of forest fires, and they introduced the ‘Smokey the Bear’ campaign to tell people that they could prevent forest fires,” he says. “And when a wildfire did occur, they suppressed it to halt its spread. Their efforts worked — the trees show that it did because they are fewer fires in the last 50 to 70 years.”
There’s lots more on the stories tree rings tell in my book, The Tree Rings’ Tale.