Fire, Forests, Climate and People in the Jemez Mountains: A 500-Year, Landscape-Scale Perspective

Author(s): Thomas Swetnam; Joshua Farella

Year: 2015


Forests and human communities are now extremely vulnerable to large, severe wildfires during droughts as a consequence of fire exclusion and other land use practices. The extent to which this vulnerability is influenced by extreme climate events and past land-uses remains unclear. Combined studies of climate, fire and human histories from the same landscape can help reveal the relative roles of people and climate variations in driving spatial patterns and temporal trends of wildfires. The Jemez Mountains of north-central New Mexico are an exemplary case of the influences of long-time human occupation of fire-prone, forested landscapes. The southern Jemez Plateau is unique as a case study landscape because it contains many ancient Puebloan village and "field house" ruins located within ponderosa pine forests and pinyon-juniper woodlands. This landscape also contains the densest network of tree-ring reconstructions of fire and climate histories combined in the world, which we have assembled over the past 30 years. In this presentation, I will explore the trends and patterns of fire, climate and human history over the Jemez Plateau during the past 500 years, utilizing these tree-ring reconstructions and the chronology of human occupation of these landscapes from archaeological investigations.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

Fire, Forests, Climate and People in the Jemez Mountains: A 500-Year, Landscape-Scale Perspective. Thomas Swetnam, Joshua Farella. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395231)


Geographic Keywords
North America - Southwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;