NCEAS Project 12299

Pyrogeography and climate change (co-sponsored with KITP)

  • David Bowman
  • Jennifer K. Balch

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Working Group27th May—3rd June 2008Participant List  

It is time to rethink the place of fire on Earth. Megafires are currently overwhelming human control, despite huge budgets and mature fire-fighting technologies. There is mounting evidence that, beyond immediate destruction of life and property, landscape fires have long-term effects on global carbon stocks, biodiversity, climate, world economies, and human health. Despite fire’s pervasive influence in many disciplines, there is no uniting theory or paradigm concerning the role of biomass burning in Earth science. Moreover, fire has not been satisfactorily considered by global change policy and ecosystem management. We, therefore, propose a thought experiment addressing (i) whether fire would evolve where carbon-based life is present, (ii) how it would evolve, and (iii) how humans, their cultures, and fire may have coevolved. We will combine knowledge about biomass burning across fields to develop an integrative paradigm of ‘pyrogeography’ that addresses these fundamental questions. In a period of intensifying fire activity, our synthesis will provide crucial information that aids human adaptation.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Presentations Balch, Jennifer K. 2009. Pyrogeography: Fire’s place in Earth system science. Chinese Delegation to NCEAS with representatives from NSF, 28 October 2009.
Journal Article Balch, Jennifer K.; Nepstad, Daniel C.; Brando, Paulo M.; Alencar, Ane. 2010. Comment on the incidence of fire in Amazonian forests with implications for REDD. Science. Vol: 330. Pages 1627-b.
Journal Article Bowman, David; Balch, Jennifer K.; Artaxo, Paulo; Bond, William J.; Carlson, Jean; Cochrane, Mark; D'Antonio, Carla M.; DeFries, Ruth S.; Doyle, John C.; Harrison, Sandy P.; Johnston, Fay; Keeley, Jon; Krawchuk, Meg A.; Kull, Christian; Marston, John B.; Moritz, Max A.; Prentice, I. Colin; Roos, Christopher; Scott, Andrew C.; Swetnam, Thomas W.; van der Werf, Guido; Pyne, Stephen J. 2009. Fire in the earth system. Science. Vol: 324. Pages 481-484.
Presentations Bowman, David. 2009. Pyrogeography. ", Association for Fire Ecology 4th International Fire Ecology & Management Congress, 1 December 2009 .
Journal Article Roos, Christopher; Bowman, David; Balch, Jennifer K.; Artaxo, Paulo; Bond, William J.; Cochrane, Mark; D'Antonio, Carla M.; DeFries, Ruth S.; Mack, Michelle C.; Johnston, Fay; Krawchuk, Meg A.; Kull, Christian; Moritz, Max A.; Pyne, Stephen J.; Scott, Andrew C.; Swetnam, Thomas W. 2014. Pyrogeography, historical ecology, and the human dimensions of fire regimes . Journal of Biogeography. Vol: 41. Pages 833-836.