A modelling-based approach for detecting prehistoric anthropogenic fires in north-central Massachusetts
The importance of prehistoric anthropogenic fires to the landscape of the Northeast continues to be studied and debated by ecologists. Inferences about prehistoric anthropogenic fires are made using fossil pollen and charcoal evidence from sediment cores taken from ponds and bogs, but the results remain equivocal. I present a modelling-based strategy to locate sediment core sites so that the occurrence of prehistoric anthropogenic fires can be detected in the hilly uplands of north-central Massachusetts. I use a prehistoric human settlement model and ethnographic data about aboriginal fire-setting behavior to predict areas likely to have been burned, and to select suitable ponds for coring. I use a fine-scale, large-area, long-term forest growth model to simulate mid-Holocene vegetation to aid in the interpretation of fossil pollen data at the selected ponds. A list of ponds likely to contain evidence of fire and ponds not likely to contain evidence of fire are provided, along with vegetation patterns likely to be observed at each selected pond and across the study area.