Understanding the history of fire activity within an environment is key to modeling an area’s future fire and vegetation trends under changing climate conditions. Due to a lack of terrestrial sediment records, the climate and fire regime changes brought by warming after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) c. 21,000 years BP are not well understood in the midlatitude environments of eastern North America. These areas experienced transitional ecosystems during glacial melting which are without modern analogs and which may offer key insights to environmental impacts of global warming. The Maple Flats ephemeral sinkhole pond complex in Augusta County, Virginia provides a unique resource for assessing sedimentary charcoal since the LGM in the Shenandoah Valley region. Accumulation rates of charcoal particles from Twin Pond West in Maple Flats reveal that fire activity rose sharply at the onset of glacial recession and may have fluctuated throughout deglaciation in conjunction with air circulation changes brought by variable glacial topography. Charcoal morphotype analysis from this site suggests that burn fuels shifted to reflect less intense burning near 11,000 years BP, coinciding with the start of the Holocene, the settlement of early humans in the area, and the beginning of a period with decreased fire activity. Changes in fuel and fire frequency at this juncture may indicate an anthropogenic fire regime of prescribed burns in the Shenandoah Valley since the early Holocene. This signature of human impact may help contextualize modern fire management strategies in the valley, while the enhanced understanding of post-glacial burn activity in the area may influence projections of fire in other transitional environment scenarios.
Stockton, JaneAnne, "Reconstructing Fire History in the Shenandoah Valley from an Ephemeral Sinkhole Pond" (2022). Geology Senior Theses. William & Mary. Paper 29.