Widespread wildfire across the Pliocene Canadian Arctic Archipelago

T. Fletcher, C. Eble, J. S. Sinninghe Damsté, K. J. Brown, N. Rybczynski, J. Gosse, Z. Liu, A. Ballantyne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Arctic warming is expected to accelerate northward migration of the boreal zone, altering the boreal wildfire regime, with changes in fire frequency, intensity, size, and fire season length. The closest analogue to these future high latitude climate conditions occurred during the Pliocene Epoch (2.58–5.33 Ma). Palaeoenvironmental reconstructions at four Pliocene-aged sites across the Canadian Arctic Archipelago reveal that boreal forest occurred at the southern-most site on Banks Island (74.30°N), while open forest or tundra-forest ecosystems existed further north, characterized by species tolerant of low to moderate fire intensity. The climate that supported these ecosystems was much warmer and wetter than the current climate of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Charcoal was discovered in samples across all sites, suggesting that wildfire was ubiquitous within these ecosystems and climate regimes. The reflectance of the charcoal is consistent with crowning fire or a mixed fire regime on Banks Island and a surface fire regime on Meighen and Ellesmere islands. Boreal forest in southern Ontario, Canada, and open taiga are potential analogues for southern and northern Pliocene Arctic ecosystems, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110653
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
StatePublished - Dec 15 2021


  • Boreal
  • Branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs)
  • Charcoal
  • Organic petrography
  • Reflectance


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