Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2006


Published in GREAT PLAINS RESEARCH 16:2 p. 161-172 (Fall 2006). Copyright © 2006 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


This study documents historic fire events at Capulin Volcano National Monument over the last four centuries using dendrochronologically dated fire scars at two sites: the lower volcano lava flows (the Boca) and the adjacent canyon slopes (Morrow Ranch). The mean fire interval (MFI) was 12 years at the Boca site (before 1890) and 5.4 years (1600-1750) and 19.1 years (1751-1890) at the Morrow Ranch site. Data from the Boca and Morrow Ranch sites combined with the extremely pyrogenic landscape position of the volcano slopes indicate that the volcano slopes likely burned more frequently (e.g., MFI <5 yr). Around 1750, the fire regime appeared to transition to longer fire intervals, greater temporal synchrony among fire-scarred trees, and a higher proportion of trees scarred in fire years. Temporal variability in the fire regime at Capulin Volcano may reflect changes in human populations, climate, and land use.