Lane B Johnson* - University of Minnesota
Kurt F Kipfmueller - University of Minnesota
Wildfire is an integral agent of disturbance and renewal in Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Our current understanding of forest fires in northeast Minnesota can largely be attributed to the efforts of Miron 'Bud' Heinselman, whose seminal 1970s fire history research gave the BWCAW national exposure among fire ecologists. Today, ongoing dendrochronological analysis of preserved Red pine stumps (Pinus resinosa) sampled along a historic canoe travel corridor in the western Boundary Waters is providing new insights into the frequency and spatial distribution of proto-historic fires across a lake archipelago near the Minnesota/Ontario international border.
Over the summer of 2011, intensive canoe and pedestrian surveys within a portion of Lake La Croix's island landscape yielded over 70 fire-scarred cross-sections from remnant Red pine stumps. At present, crossdated fire years derived from the samples are being analyzed to determine the synchrony of fire events across space and time and to test the strength of association between fires and regional drought. In addition, the proto-historic frequency of fire events will be compared with the Superior National Forest's fire atlas data for the modern era (ca. 1950-present) and historic shifts in regional Ojibwe occupancy to assess the level of human influence on Lake La Croix's Red pine fire regimes prior to extensive Euro-American land use.