Soils for this study were collected at Foping National Natural Reserve (FNNR, 33º33´ - 33º46´´N, 107º40´ - 107º55´E), located in the middle part of southern slope of Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi Province, China. FNNR is in the northern edge of a subtropical area.

The 0.5 cm sections of the core each soil pit will be examined for charcoal content and silica (phytolith) content using standard protocols (Faegri et al. 1987, Pearsall 1989). High silica density indicates dominance by bamboo and high charcoal abundance indicates fire events. Phytoliths are small, hard rock-like bodies formed in the spaces between living cells of a plant through the structured accumulation of silica brought into the cells with water. Phytoliths are especially common in grasses. Charcoal is the blackish residue consisting of impure carbon obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents by fire from animal and vegetation substances; in other words, burned organic matter. Quantification of microscopic charcoal particles preserved in soil is commonly used to study the occurrence of past fires and their effects on vegetation communities (Franklin and Tolonen 2000). Charcoal will be extracted by water flotation, then weighed to the nearest 0.1 ug. Charcoal from 50 soil samples (one soil pit) have been extracted and weighed. It is obvious fire has been extensive in the recent past, and periodically important historically.

Objectives and Hypotheses
Bamboo dominance and its relation to fire occurrence need to be properly understood if we are to successfully manage wildlife habitat, especially for giant panda in the Qinling Mountains. In this paper, we focused on two bamboo species: B. fargesii and F. qinlingensis, themain food sources of giant panda. The purpose of this study was to examine the dynamics of bamboo dominance (phytolith) in relation to fire occurrence (soil charcoal) with three hypotheses: first, the occurrence and temporal frequency of fire will be correlated with bamboo dominance in both Bashania and Fargesia-dominated forest;  second, fire would be facilitated in the recent mast flowering areas; third, dominance of lower elevation Bashania  is expected to be more related to fire occurrence.  



Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi, China.


Rayle, Courtney M., S.B. Franklin & Zhijun Lu. 2015. Fire occurrence in relation to bamboo dominance in the Qinling Mountains of China: Evidence from phytolith and charcoal records in Holocene sediments. SCIENCE CHINA Earth Sciences 58: 1-10. PDF

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