Microscopic charcoals in ocean sediments off Africa track past fire intensity from the continent

Fires in Africa account for more than half of global fire-carbon emissions but the long-term evolution of fire activity and its link to global climate change remains elusive. Paleofire records provide descriptive information about fire changes through time, going beyond the range of satellite observations, although fire regime characteristics are challenging to reconstruct. To address this conceptual gap, we report here the abundance and morphometric data for a large set of microscopic charcoal samples (n = 128) recovered from surface ocean sediments offshore Africa. We show that in subtropical Southern Africa, large and intense fires prevailing in open savanna-grassland ecosystems produce a high abundance of small and elongated microcharcoal particles. In contrast, in the forest ecosystems of equatorial and tropical regions of western and central Africa, low-intensity fires dominate, producing low amounts of squared microcharcoal particles. Microcharcoal concentration and morphotype in marine sediment records off Africa are thus indicative of fire regime characteristics. Applied to down-core marine charcoal records, these findings reveal that at orbital time-scale intense and large, open grassland-savanna fires occurred during wet periods in the sub-tropical areas. A strong contribution of fire carbon emissions during periods of precession and summer insolation maxima in the geological record is thus expected.

Full Text

Publisher's official version
112 Mo
Peer Review File
423 Mo
Supplementary Material
22807 Ko
How to cite
Haliuc Aritina, Daniau Anne-Laure, Mouillot Florent, Chen Wentao, Leys Bérangère, David Valérie, Hanquiez Vincent, Dennielou Bernard, Schefuß Enno, Bayon Germain, Crosta Xavier (2023). Microscopic charcoals in ocean sediments off Africa track past fire intensity from the continent. Communications Earth & Environment. 4 (1). 133 (11p.). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-023-00800-x, https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00834/94612/

Copy this text