Title: Vegetation and Fire History: Savanna above Buck Run, Oswego Drainage Basin, Pine Barrens, NJ (2000)
Author: Emily Russell, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Parks, Natural Lands Management Office
Abstract: In this study, the history of a savanna is traced using pollen and charcoal preserved in peat, especially to determine whether it predates Euroamerican clearing in the region, and to evaluate the importance of fire in its establishment and maintenance. Pollen that falls on a wet surface such as peat becomes incorporated into the sediment as the material accumulates over time. Most pollen grains are preserved in the acid conditions of a peat bog, so sediment many thousands of years old still contains pollen representing the plants that were growing in the vicinity at the time the peat was deposited. Sediment also preserves charcoal, both microscopic particles blown in from regional and local fires and large pieces from fires occurring on the site, providing a record of relative importance of fire in the landscape over time. While neither pollen nor charcoal provide direct evidence for vegetation or fires, they can both be interpreted to suggest changes in the proportions of important or key species over time and changing fire intensity.