How Mountain Topography Structured Forests by Influencing Human Fire Use

Category: Time:
Wednesday, December 5, 2018 - 11:45 to 13:00
Room: Speaker:
Erana Loveless
David Frank

In a world where energetic efficiency is the currency of life, mountains present landscapes with varying costs for motile organisms. However, the consequences of topographic costs are not always direct or obvious. Montane topography produces cascading effects on biotic landscapes indirectly through its impacts on human movement patterns. This work presents a case study on whether topographic costs have shaped human fire use for centuries while leaving noticeable effects on regional biota, such as variations in forest age structure. Examining Canadian Rocky Mountain landscapes in the Banff National Park area, this model evaluates if there is a relationship between topographically low-cost human movement and/or residence corridors, archaeological indications of continuous land use, and fire history and forest age structure patterns. Essentially, did topographically ideal areas sustain significantly more continuous fire use, resulting in persistent differences in forest structure today? Lastly, because humans were known to burn for the creation and maintenance of bison habitat, is there a relationship between known bison wallow locations and forest age structures representing continuous frequent and sustained fire use?