Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Sally Horn

Committee Members

Yingkui Li, Chad Lane


While tropical savannas are naturally fire-prone ecosystems, anthropogenic burning can influence their distribution. Precisely when human activity in southern Belize began to significantly alter regional fire regimes is unknown, but savannas there are composed of fire-adapted species and are regarded as having evolved with both anthropogenic and natural fire. This thesis presents a multiproxy record from lake sediment cores that documents the complex interaction between fire, people, climate, and vegetation during the late Holocene. The dataset derives from 1) high-resolution analysis (1-cm interval sampling) of local fire history based on macroscopic (>125 μm) charcoal; 2) pollen analysis to determine vegetation history; and 3) Bulk geochemistry analyses. These analyses were carried out on two cores recovered in March 2018 from Pine Pond, a roughly circular pond of about 0.5 ha on the boundary of the Deep River Forest Reserve on the southern coastal plain of Belize. The pond is presently surrounded by an area of tropical pine savanna that may be threatened by increased, near-annual anthropogenic burning. Core 2 from near the center of the lake is ~6 m long and extends to ca. 4700 cal yr BP. Core 1, collected closer to shore, is ~2 m long and covers the last ca. 1200 years. This long term paleoecological reconstruction provides evidence for changes in fire, vegetation, and climate over distinct periods during the prehistoric and historic era. Such information may be relevant for both current and future conservation practices within the Deep River Forest Reserve and the adjacent Paynes Creek National Park.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."