New Zealand is an important calibration opportunity because fires were infrequent prior to ~1200 BP. Maori arrival is associated with significant burning and an abrupt loss of over 40% of New Zealand’s forest cover1. Pollen, charcoal, and plant macrofossil analyses from a series of fifteen South Island lake cores show a prominent period of initial burning within 100 years of the arrival of the Maori1. Four of the fifteen sites (Te Aroha, Glendhu, Lake Diamond, and Dingle Burn) show a distinct increase in charcoal accumulation rates for approximately 100 years which is then followed by a relative absence of charcoal until the arrival of Europeans in the 19th century1. Molecular biomarkers may have different concentrations before and after the arrival of humans to New Zealand. We are using these well-defined New Zealand sites to compare and calibrate levoglucosan and charcoal records in lake sediments.
1. McWethy et al. (2009) The Holocene, 19, 883-897