EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Holocene fire-vegetation history and its relationship with climate and human activity revealed by lake sediments from eastern Tianshan

Yongtao Zhao1,2, Yunfa Miao1,3, Xin Jia4, Yuan Li1, Haiming Li5,6, Weimiao Dong7, Jiaju Zhao8, Xuelian Wang1, Xianyong Cao9, and Chengbang An2
Yongtao Zhao et al.
  • 1Key Laboratory of Desert and Desertification, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
  • 2Key Laboratory of Western China's Environmental Systems (Ministry of Education), College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • 3University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • 4Jiangsu Center for Collaborative Innovation in Geographical Information Resource Development and Application, Nanjing, 210023, China
  • 5College of Humanities & Social Development, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210095, China
  • 6Institution of Chinese Agricultural Civilization, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210095, China
  • 7Department of Cultural Heritage and Museology & Institute of Archaeological Science, Fudan University, China
  • 8State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an, 710061, China
  • 9Alpine Paleoecology and Human Adaptation Group (ALPHA), State Key Laboratory of Tibetan Plateau Earth System, and Resources and Environment (TPESRE), Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.

To distinguish how climatic and human factors influence Holocene fire dynamics in arid, westerlies-dominated areas of Central Asia, we examined micro-charcoal and pollen records in well-dated sediment cores from Balikun lake, eastern Tianshan region, Central Asia. Our results show that vegetation biomass primarily controlled the suborbital-time-scale fire dynamics, with an increasing trend of fire intensity from the early to late Holocene. Evidence for substantial anthropogenic influence on fires is mainly related to the expansion of prehistoric agriculture during ~3.6-2.2 cal kyr BP in our study area. These human activities caused a departure from “natural” background fire levels that vary with climate change.

In contrast, the human-linked fire peak in the nearby Hexi Corridor, which lies in Asian summer monsoon dominated regions of eastern China, occurred before ~3.6 cal kyr BP. This may reflect differences in the timing and sequence of cultural development under regions dominated by different circulation patterns. The weakening of the Asian summer monsoon after ~3.6 cal kyr BP likely promoted the Hexi Corridor population to migrate to eastern Tianshan, as evidenced by the similar pottery from eastern Tianshan to those of the Siba culture (4.0-3.5 cal kyr BP) that originated from the Hexi Corridor. This migration facilitated the formation of the westward cultural exchange route known as the “Painted Pottery Road”, enhancing regional human activity and causing an increase of fires in eastern Tianshan.

How to cite: Zhao, Y., Miao, Y., Jia, X., Li, Y., Li, H., Dong, W., Zhao, J., Wang, X., Cao, X., and An, C.: Holocene fire-vegetation history and its relationship with climate and human activity revealed by lake sediments from eastern Tianshan, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-17373,, 2023.