EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The human and climate drivers of Holocene grassland fires in the South Caucasus: A macro-charcoal, brGDGTs, and pollen reconstruction

Amy Cromartie1, Chéïma Barhoumi2, Lucas Dugerdil2,3, Guillemette Ménot3, Odile Peyron2, Erwan Messager4, David Etienne5, Lori Khatchadourian6, Ruben Badalyan7, Adam T. Smith1, Khachatur Meliksetian8, and Sébastien Joannin2
Amy Cromartie et al.
  • 1Cornell University, Anthropology, United States of America (
  • 2Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution de Montpellier ISEM, Universite de Montpellier, CNRS, IRD, EPHE
  • 3Univ. Lyon, ENS de Lyon, Université Lyon 1, CNRS, UMR 5276 LGL-TPE
  • 4EDYTEM, Université Savoie Mont-Blanc, CNRS,
  • 5Univ. Savoie Mont Blanc, INRAE, CARRTEL
  • 6Department of Near Eastern Studies, Cornell University
  • 7Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia
  • 8Institute of Geological Sciences, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia

The mountainous area of Armenia has been a steppe throughout the Holocene with a rich history of fire events throughout this period. Previous research has found that changes in fire are linked to shifts between Poaceae grasslands and semi-arid Chenopodiaceae steppes. However, the climate and human drivers of these fires has yet to be fully explored in an area where agriculture has been practiced for almost 8,000 years. To elucidate these changes, we performed and compiled macro-charcoal analysis on four wetland sediment cores from the Kasakh Valley, Armenia. We aimed to understand fire frequency, intensity, size, and drivers of these events. In addition, we utilize a paleotemperature molecular biomarker branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs), a pollen climate reconstruction for temperature and precipitation, and the vast amount of archaeological data to help us untangle these changes. Early results suggest fires increase as temperature rose during the early Holocene and continue to increase with temperature during the Mid-Holocene despite an increase in agriculture during the Early Bronze Age. Between 4000 - 2000 cal. BP fires are small and almost disappear from the record. During this period these declines appear to be driven both by temperature fluctuations and an increase in regional mobile pastoralism resulting in declining biomass. Over the last 2000 years, humans appear to be the primary driver of fires with an increase in large intense events that are local to the watershed.

How to cite: Cromartie, A., Barhoumi, C., Dugerdil, L., Ménot, G., Peyron, O., Messager, E., Etienne, D., Khatchadourian, L., Badalyan, R., Smith, A. T., Meliksetian, K., and Joannin, S.: The human and climate drivers of Holocene grassland fires in the South Caucasus: A macro-charcoal, brGDGTs, and pollen reconstruction, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-10442,, 2021.

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