Fire history and vegetation recovery in two raised bogs at the Baltic Sea

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What were the bog fire patterns and frequencies in two boreal peatlands during the last 5000 years? What is the nature and time-scale of post-fire vegetation successions? Were fire events related to climate?


Männikjärve bog, central east Estonia; Kontolanrahka bog, southwest Finland.


Macroscopic charcoal, plant macrofossils and radiocarbon dating were examined. Redundancy analysis was used in the assessments.


During the last 5000 years, both of the above peatlands have experienced several fire events. A typical pre-fire vegetation community consisted of dry hummock Sphagnum spp., often accompanied by Calluna vulgaris. Only the most severe occasional fires resulted in a dramatic change in the vegetation composition. In these cases, a wet shift occurred, where the pre-fire hummock community was replaced by a wet hollow community. Calluna vulgaris was found to be a key species in both pre- and post-fire vegetation dynamics. The recovery time of dry microtopes following severe combustion and the subsequent hydrological change could take up to 350 years. Even after a long-lasting wet phase, the post-fire disturbance succession led towards a dry hummock community.


Fire succession appeared to be cyclic, starting as and developing towards a dry hummock community. Fires have been a regular phenomenon in boreal bogs, even in regions with rather low human impact. The fire history records did not indicate any direct link to the regional long-term climate.

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