Fire history and the global charcoal database

A new tool for hypothesis testing and data exploration

M. J. Power*, J. R. Marlon, P. J. Bartlein, S. P. Harrison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

103 Citations (Scopus)


Version 1 of the Global Charcoal Database is now available for regional fire history reconstructions, data exploration, hypothesis testing, and evaluation of coupled climate-vegetation-fire model simulations. The charcoal database contains over 400 radiocarbon-dated records that document changes in charcoal abundance during the Late Quaternary. The aim of this public database is to stimulate cross-disciplinary research in fire sciences targeted at an increased understanding of the controls and impacts of natural and anthropogenic fire regimes on centennial-to-orbital timescales. We describe here the data standardization techniques for comparing multiple types of sedimentary charcoal records. Version 1 of the Global Charcoal Database has been used to characterize global and regional patterns in fire activity since the last glacial maximum. Recent studies using the charcoal database have explored the relation between climate and fire during periods of rapid climate change, including evidence of fire activity during the Younger Dryas Chronozone, and during the past two millennia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-59
Number of pages8
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Charcoal
  • Database
  • Dynamic global vegetation models
  • Fire history

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