Upland soil charcoal in the wet tropical forests of central Guyana

D.S. Hammond, H. ter Steege, K. van der Borg

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A soil charcoal survey was undertaken across 60,000 ha of closed-canopy tropical forest in central Guyana to determine the occurrence, ubiquity, and age of past forest fires across a range of terra firme soil types. Samples were clustered around six centers consisting of spatially nested sample stations. Most charcoal was found between 40 and 60 cm depth with fewest samples yielding material at 0-20 cm depth. The first core yielded charcoal at most stations. Charcoal ages of a random subsample ranged from less than 200 YBP to 9500 YBP with a noticeable peak between 1000 and 1250 YBP. Results reinforce a view that most closed-canopy tropical forests in eastern Amazonia have been subject to palaeo-fire events of unknown severity with a peak in charcoal age consistently appearing between 1000 and 2000 YBP. The two samples dated to the early Holocene represent some of the oldest indicators of paleo-fire known from upland Neotropical forest soils. Ubiquitous soil charcoal in central Guyana further indicate both forest resilience to fire and the widespread propensity for regional forests to burn, particularly during anomalous periods of drought.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)153-160
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Plant biology (Botany)
  • Life sciences
  • Biologie/Milieukunde (BIOL)

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