Charcoal chronology of the Amazon forest: A record of biodiversity preserved by ancient fires

Ana Carolina Goulart, Kita D. Macario*, Rita Scheel-Ybert, Eduardo Q. Alves, Caroline Bachelet, Bruna B. Pereira, Carolina Levis, Ben Hur Marimon Junior, Beatriz S. Marimon, Carlos Alberto Quesada, Ted R. Feldpausch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The Amazon region holds a wide variety of ethnic groups and microclimates, enabling different interactions between humans and environment. To better understand the evolution of this region, ancient remains need to be analysed by all possible means. In this context, the study of natural and/or anthropogenic fires through the analysis of carbonized remains can give information on past climate, species diversity, and human intervention in forests and landscapes. In the present work, we undertook an anthracological analysis along with the 14C dating of charcoal fragments using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). Charcoal samples from forest soils collected from seven different locations in the Amazon Basin were taxonomically classified and dated. Out of the 16 groups of charcoal fragments identified, five contained more than one taxonomic type, with the Fabaceae, Combretaceae and Sapotaceae families having the highest frequencies. 14C charcoal dates span ∼6000 years (from 6876 to 365 yr BP) among different families, with the most significant variation observed for two fragments from the same sampling location (spanning 4000 14C yr). Some sample sets resulted in up to five different families. These findings demonstrate the importance of the association between anthracological identification and radiocarbon dating in the reconstruction of paleo-forest composition and fire history.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-186
JournalQuaternary Geochronology
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • AMS
  • Ancient fires
  • Anthracology
  • Biodiversity
  • Charcoal
  • Radiocarbon

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