Investigating the Effect of Oxidants on the Quantification and Characterization of Charcoal in Two Southeast Australian Sedimentary Records

Publication Name



This study examined the effects of commonly used oxidants in sedimentary macroscopic charcoal analysis on two sediment cores from Thirlmere Lakes National Park, Southeast Australia. The cores, from Lake Werri Berri (WB3) and Lake Couridjah (LC2), span ~900 years and 135,000 years, respectively. The Charcoal Accumulation Rate (CHAR) for both charcoal area and count was quantified using four different chemical treatments and compared to a control using only water. We also quantified the Charring Intensity (CI) of isolated charcoal fragments, a proxy for the severity/intensity of fire, determined using the FTIR spectral characteristics of the remaining charcoal after each treatment. We found significant differences in both the area and number of particles across all treatments in both cores. Significantly, we found substantial differences in CI between treatments, with few charcoal particles formed in low-severity fire (e.g., below ~400 °C or 3.0 °C.s.106) in groups treated with an oxidant. In contrast, the control group displayed a wider range of CI values and contained lightly pyrolyzed particles. This suggests that methods using an oxidant to concentrate sedimentary charcoal are potentially biasing records towards high-intensity or -severity fires. We suggest that consideration should be used when choosing laboratory methods based on the hypotheses being tested.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access





Article Number


Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



Link to publisher version (DOI)