The role of climate-fuel feedbacks on Holocene biomass burning in upper-montane Carpathian forests

Vachel A. Carter, Přemysl Bobek, Alice Moravcová, Anna Šolcová, Richard C. Chiverrell, Jennifer L. Clear, Walter Finsinger, Angelica Feurdean, Ioan Tanţău, Enikő Magyari, Thomas Brussel, Petr Kuneš

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Over the past few decades, mean summer temperatures within the Carpathian Mountains have increased by as much as 2 °C leading to a projected increased forest fire risk. Currently, there are no paleofire records from the Western Carpathians that provide the long-term range of natural variability to contextualise the response of upper-montane forests to future environmental change and disturbance regimes. We present the first high-resolution Holocene fire history record from the upper-montane ecotone from the High Tatra Mountains, Slovakia, as well as provide a regional synthesis of pan-Carpathian drivers of biomass burning in upper-montane forests. Our results illustrate that forest composition and density both greatly influence biomass burning, creating two different climate-fuel feedbacks. First, warmer conditions in the early Holocene, coupled with generally higher abundances of Pinus sp., either P. cembra and/or P. mugo/sylvestris, created a positive climate-fuel relationship that resulted in higher amounts of biomass burning. Second, cooler and wetter late Holocene conditions led to denser Picea abies upper-montane forests, creating a negative climate-fuel feedback that reduced biomass burning in upper-montane forests across the Carpathians. Given that warmer and drier conditions are expected across the entire Carpathian region in the future, our results illustrate how future climate change could potentially create a positive climate-fuel relationship within upper-montane forests dominated by Picea abies and Pinus cembra and/or P. mugo/sylvestris.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103264
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Carpathians
  • Fire
  • Forest composition
  • Forest density
  • Holocene
  • Macrofossils
  • Picea abies
  • Pollen
  • Sedimentary charcoal
  • Upper-montane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Oceanography

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  • Cite this

    Carter, V. A., Bobek, P., Moravcová, A., Šolcová, A., Chiverrell, R. C., Clear, J. L., Finsinger, W., Feurdean, A., Tanţău, I., Magyari, E., Brussel, T., & Kuneš, P. (2020). The role of climate-fuel feedbacks on Holocene biomass burning in upper-montane Carpathian forests. Global and Planetary Change, 193, [103264].