FOREST ECOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT, vol.518, 2022 (SCI-Expanded)
In this study, we aimed to use tree-ring based fire reconstruction to understand the spatiotemporal patterns of past fires in different climate types of western Anatolia. We collected fire scarred wood samples from living trees as wedges and remnant woods from ten sites along a transect that represents a continental to Mediterranean climate gradient. We determined fire years and assigned seasonality of fires based on the intraring position of the fire scars. We calculated fire statistics and analysed fire-climate relationships. Breakpoints in our Anatolian regional fire chronology were estimated to determine the regime shifts. A decrease in fire frequency was recorded at most of the sites after the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. We observed two critical fire regime shift periods. The period between 1853 and 1934 is characterized by highly frequent (a total of 82 fires) and simultaneous fires occurring in multiple sites and this period overlapped with the longest and most severe drought period of the past 550 years. The fire frequency decline after 1934 coincided with the period of the first forest protection law in 1937. Dry, as well as prior wet conditions were main drivers of fires in the black pine forests in western Anatolia. We observed a decrease in fire frequency in the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to fire suppression activities. Continued fire suppression activities may cause fuel accumulation and pose a risk for more intense fires and thus a paradox for forests in the future. Based on future climate projections, we will face prolonged fire seasons as a consequence of increasing drought frequency, which may shift the fire regime from surface to crown fires with the accumulation of combustible material in the understory in black pine forests.