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29th Oct - 4th Nov 2006

Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EL. ENGLAND

INVITATION TO CONTRIBUTE DATA (Regional Coordinators only)


The aim of the proposed workshop is to create the first global palaeofire dataset, an effort which is being organized by QUEST (Quantifying Uncertainties in the Earth System), a directed programme of the UK Natural Science Research Council. The workshop will contribute to the goals of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) Fast Track Initiative on Fire. This global synthesis will enable the examination of broad-scale patterns in palaeofire activity, provide new insights into the long-term interactions of fire, vegetation and climate, identify "gaps" in the existing palaeofire data, and provide a framework within which new records can be interpreted. Critically, this dataset will also allow us to validate global model simulations of changing fire regimes from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the present.

Participants of the PalaeoFires FTI will met to review data they have compiled for their respective region, resolve problems, create final products (maps) and compare this maps from the model simulations.

The palaeo-record provides ideal opportunities for evaluating components of earth system models. Charcoal records, in combination with information about changes in vegetation distribution, can be used to evaluate state-of-art coupled vegetation-fire models. A preliminary compilation of qualitative information about the change in fire regimes in the Americas between the mid-Holocene and today (Marlon and Bartlein, unpublished data) shows coherent patterns of regional change in fire regime. However, for an adequate modelling test, this compilation has to be extended to cover the globe and to other time periods. There is insufficient data in archive charcoal databases to allow this and much of the data is held in grey literature or papers published in the non-English literature. We therefore propose to produce a compilation of primary charcoal data covering the period from the last glacial maximum, through the early Holocene and mid-Holocene, to the recent period.

Data compilation is currently underway and it is hoped to have global coverage, based on regional compilations using available literature by summer 2006. The planned workshop will allow us to:

  1. evaluate the global dataset and identify gaps and inconsistencies
  2. examine mapped patterns of changes in fire regimes through time
  3. compare these changes with changes in vegetation patterns for key regions
  4. compare the reconstructed changes in fire regime with simulated changes based on runs with the LPJ-SPITFIRE model.
We envisage that the workshop will yield the following concrete products:
  1. a series of maps showing the change in fire regime at several key time periods during the last glacial-interglacial cycle;
  2. a jointed-authored paper describing the data set and compilation ;
  3. a jointed-authored paper describing observed changes in fire regimes during the last glacial-interglacial cycle;
  4. a joint-authored paper describing the comparison of these records with simulated changes in fire patterns, and thus exploring the role of changes in climate on fire regimes;
  5. as a by-product, a substantial increase in the amount of charcoal data held in the charcoal archive database at NOAA-NGDC.
The workshop is a contribution to the IGBP Fast Track Initiative on Fire and to the QUEST Deglaciation project.


Sunday 29th October

Arrival of participants at Dartington Hall
18.00 Pre-dinner drinks
19.30 Dinner

Monday 30th October


Sandy Harrison. The Palaeofires Fast Track Initiative: what are we trying to achieve during this workshop and how are we going to achieve it!


Jenn Marlon & Kirsten Thonicke. Qualitative patterns of changes in fire regimes in the mid-Holocene: a first comparison of observed and simulated patterns


Mitch Power and Natalie Ortiz. The Palaeofires FTI Database: presentation of current contents and problems

11.00-11.30: Coffee break


Working Session 1a. Evaluation of the global dataset, identification of gaps and inconsistencies, AND correction of problems (Ballouche, Bradshaw, Carcaillet, Cordova, Haberle, Harrison, Marlon, Mayle, Mooney, Moreno, Ortiz, Power, Vedrova, Whitlock, Zhang)

The aim of this working session is to ensure that the data which will be mapped is fit to purpose (or at least we know about potential uncertainties). In practice the task in this session is to look in detail at the database and to ensure that we are NOT missing key sites in vital places, that any errors in data entries that have been identified and not fixed before the meeting are FIXED, that the treatment of the records does not differ by regions, that age models are acceptable and metadata is complete. We plan to have relevant publications accessible and we will have access to the internet. We will divide into small groups to do this work, with Jenn, Mitch and Natalie spearheading any database clean-up required.

Working Group 1b. Preparation of vegetation and fire model output (Bartlein, Prentice, Thonicke)

The aim of this working session is to decide on the best way to prepare the model output for the data-model comparison exercise. Kirsten will spearhead any extraction and re-mapping of the products required.

13.00-14.30 Lunchbreak

14.30-18.30 Working Sessions 1a & 1b continued

19.30 Dinner

21.00 Post-dinner working session for back-room team to prepare maps of changes in fire regime at 6ka and 21ka for presentation next day (Sandy, Jenn, Mitch, Natalie, Kirsten, Bart)

Tuesday 31st October

9.00-9.30 Jenn Marlon & Mitch Power. Changes in fire regimes at 6ka and 21ka: presentation of maps extracted from the global data base.

9.30-11.00 Sandy Harrison. Discussion of reconstructed changes in fire regime: is the methodology appropriate? do the reconstructed changes make sense? is it possible to make similar maps for other time periods? which time periods should we be mapping? which data and which variables required ? what vegetation information do we require ?

11.00-11.30 Coffee break

11.30-13.00 Working session 2a Production of definitive maps of changes in fire regime.

The aim of this working session is to produce a definitive set of maps for key time periods (at least 21ka and 6ka, other periods as appropriate) based on methodology agreed after morning discussions. (Sandy, Jenn, Mitch, Natalie, Bart)

Working session 2b Expansion of global data set (Mayle, and everyone who is NOT in the back-room team). The aim of this working group is to use the prototype maps (and other information in the database) to identify contacts, sites and sources of information for future improvement of database.

13.00-14.30 Lunch break

14.30-18.30 Working Session 2a and 2b continue

Wednesday 1st November

9.00-9.30 P.J. Bartlein Presentation of sequence of maps showing changes in fire regimes

9.30-11.00 Discussion of mapped sequence led by F. Mayle)

11.00-11.30 Coffee break

11.30-12.00 K. Thonicke. Simululated changes in fire regime using LPJ-SPITFIRE

12.00-13.00 Discussion of observed and simulated changes in fire regime (led by S. Mooney)

13.00-14.30 Lunch

14.30-18.30 Working Sessions

Working Session 3a. Drafting group for paper describing the changes in fire regimes through time (PALAEOFIRE PAPER) (Power, Mayle, Bartlein, Bradshaw, Cordova, Carcaillet, Haberle, Vedrova, Ortiz, Ballouche)

Working Session 3b Drafting group for paper comparing simulated and observed changes in fire regime (DATA/MODEL COMPARION PAPER) (Marlon, Thonicke, Harrison, Mooney, Prentice, Brown, Moreno, Zhang, Whitlock)

(N.B. People will have the opportunity of shifting drafting groups on subsequent days. Copies of the outline / draft will be available after dinner so that participants can go through them before the next morning's session)

19.30 Dinner

Thursday 2nd November

9.00-11.00 The convenors of the Working Groups (Power, Marlon) will summarise where they have got to in terms of drafting the papers, including showing what figures, tables etc. they intend to use and outlining the general contents/structure. The aim of this session is to ensure that there is no unnecessary overlap between the papers and that everyone is comfortable with the basic story before drafting continues

11.00-11.30 Coffee break

11.30-13.00 Drafting continues

13.00-14.30 Lunch break

14.30-18.30 Drafting continues. Copies of the drafts will be available after dinner, so that participants can go through them before the final day sessions.

19.30 Dinner

Friday 3rd November

9.00-11.00 Final drafting session.

11.00-11.30 Coffee break

11.30-13.00 Drafting session (continued)

13.00 Lunch

14.30-16.00 Plenary session: review of progress on publications, discussion of outstanding issues and planning of work required to bring these publications to submission (led by Power, Marlon, or nominated persons from each working group)

16.00-17.00 Discussion of life of Palaeofires Working Group after this workshop (led by Frank Mayle and Sandy Harrison). Is there more to do? How do we envisage ongoing collaborations? QUEST, QUAVIDA and other opportunities for collaboration? Future meetings? Etc. etc.

19.00 Final conference dinner and celebration

Saturday 4th November

Participants leave





1. Sandy Harrison



2. Colin Prentice



3. Patrick J. Bartlein

Climate/fire interactions


4. Kirsten Thonicke

Fire Modelling


5. Carlos Cordova

IGCP 521 WG2 Coordinator


6. Jennifer Marlon

Palaeofires synthesis and database


7. Cathy Whitlock

WDCA database and W America


8. Christopher Carcaillet

Eastern NA & Europe


9. Patricio Moreno

South America


10. Richard Bradshaw



11. Kendrick Brown


unable to attend

12. Simon Haberle


unable to attend

13. Scott Mooney

QUAVIDA WG, ARC-NZ Network for Vegetation Function


14. Zhang Yun



15. Francis Mayle

Tropical South America


16. Estella Vedrova

Northern Russia

unable to attend

17. Mitchell Power

QUEST-Fire synthesis


18. Natalie Ortiz

Data Manager BRIDGE


19. Aziz Ballouche

Northern and Western Africa


20. Willy Tinner


unable to attend

Last update: Octuber 10th, 2006







This map (A) shows sites people have indentified as potencial records. In some cases several people have identified the same site. Please check xls file for queries. Download xls file

Charcoal site inventory

This map (B) shows sites for which we have received some/all of the site metadata. The xls file shows which metadata is available and what is still missing. Please check the sites for your area and provide the missing fields!. Download xls file

Metadata received

This map (C) shows the sites for which all data is available

Data provided

Last update: October 10th, 2006


Dartington Hall is located 1½ miles from Totnes in the heart of South Devon known as the South Hams.

25 miles from Plymouth and 26 miles from Exeter (both these cities have airports with international connections). Three hours by car from both central London and Birmingham with the M5's link into Devon (the A38) just ten minutes drive away. The nearest railway station is Totnes.

How to find us by rail
The main railway station is located 1.5 miles away in Totnes. Approximate journey time is 3hrs from London Paddington or Birmingham . Taxis are readily available.

From London & the North
The M5 becomes the A38 at Exeter . Follow the signs for Plymouth and take the exit signed Buckfastleigh, Totnes and Dartmouth . Head south towards Totnes on the A384. After approximately 5 miles when you pass the Dartington village sign, turn left immediately, past the church, onto the Dartington Hall Estate and follow the drive to the crest of the hill. 200yds ahead you will find the main car parks on your left, adjacent to the main courtyard entrance on your right.

From the West
Take the A38 from Plymouth , the A385 from Marley Head. Upon reaching roundabout at Dartington village, turn left and then turn right before the church, onto the Dartington Hall Estate and follow the drive to the crest of the hill where 200yds ahead you will find the main car parks on your left, adjacent to the main courtyard entrance on your right

Map of the South Hams area

For more information:




For information regarding the Palaeofires Working Group and the Workshop
Prof Sandy Harrison
Email: Sandy.Harrison@bristol.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0) 117 33 17223
Fax: +44 (0) 117 954 17137

Global Palaeofires Working Group website