Fire history of oakpine forests in the Lower Boston Mountains, Arkansas, USA
Perspective on present day issues associated with wildland fire can be gained by studying the long-term interactions among humans, landscape, and fire. Fire frequency and extent over the last 320 years document these interactions north of the Arkansas River on the southern edge of the Lower Boston Mountains. Dendrochronological methods were used to construct three fire chronologies from 309 dated fire scars that were identified on 45 shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) remnants. Fire frequency increased with human population density from a depopulated period (the late 1600s and early 1700s) to a peak in fire frequency circa 1880. Fire frequency then decreased as human population continued to increase. Fire frequency and human population density were positively correlated during an early period (1680-1880) with low levels of population, but negatively correlated during a later period (1881-1910) with high levels of population. We hypothesized that this difference is due to limits on fire propagation and ignition caused by land use and culture, as well as human population density. Relatively high human population densities (>5 humans/km2) were associated with a peak in the maximum number of fires per decade in this highly dissected, `bluff and bench' landscape compared to less dissected regions of the Ozarks.