Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Burning of forest materials under late Paleozoic high atmospheric oxygen levels

Wildman, R.A., Hickey, L.J., Dickinson, M.B., Berner, R.A., Robinson, J.M., Dietrich, M., Essenhigh, R.H. and Wildman, C.B. (2004) Burning of forest materials under late Paleozoic high atmospheric oxygen levels. Geology, 32 (5). pp. 457-460.

Link to Published Version:
*Subscription may be required
Free to read:
*No subscription required


Theoretical models suggest that atmospheric oxygen reached concentrations as high as 35% O2 during the past 550 m.y. Previous burning experiments using strips of paper have challenged this idea, concluding that ancient wildfires would have decimated plant life if O2 significantly exceeded its present level of 21 %. New thermochemistry and flame-spread experiments using natural fuels contradict these results and indicate that sustained burning of forest fuels at moisture contents common to living plants does not occur between 21% and 35% O2. Therefore, the fires under atmospheres with high oxygen concentrations would not have prevented the persistence of plant communities. Times of high O2 also agree with observations of concurrent fire-resistant plant morphology, large insects, and high concentrations of fossil charcoal.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Geological Society of America
Copyright: © 2004 Geological Society of America.
Item Control Page Item Control Page