Abstract

Laboratory tests indicate that 15% O2, instead of 12%, is required for the propagation of a widespread forest fire, a 3% increase from what was previously assumed. The presence of widespread wildfire records in the Upper Triassic and Lower Jurassic of Central Europe suggests that the lower limit for O2 during this time was at least 15%. Wildfire records are based on the co-occurrence of charcoal fragments and elevated concentrations of pyrolytic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In all samples charcoal fragments are large to medium-sized and angular, suggesting that they were transported by rivers only short distances after charcoalification. Calculated combustion temperatures vary with stratigraphic position and average 295–377 °C, which is characteristic for ground or near-surface wildfires. The most extensive wildfires occurred in the earliest Jurassic and their intensities successively decreased with time. Average concentrations of the sum of pyrolytic PAHs for the lowermost Jurassic Zagaje Formation reached ∼1253 µg/g total organic carbon (TOC), whereas for the Upper Triassic–Lower Jurassic Skłoby Formation they did not exceed ∼16 µg/g TOC. Charcoal-bearing sequences were also characterized by the presence of phenyl-PAHs (Ph-PAHs) and oxygen-containing aromatic compounds. The dominance of the more stable Ph-PAH isomers in these immature to low-maturity sedimentary rocks supports their pyrolytic origin. The oxygenated PAHs may also be derived from combustion processes.

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