IGBP Fire fast track project proposal


Fires are an intrinsic part of the dynamics of the Earth System. Fire regimes result from the interaction between biophysical factors and human land use, with varying weights across biomes and through time. Their impacts range across all scales from local to global, can be highly nonlinear, potentially affect all compartments of the Earth System, and can have large feedbacks to ecosystem goods and services and the human systems that depend on them. Fire research therefore requires an integrated approach across different IGBP projects, which brings together human scientists, terrestrial ecologists and atmospheric scientists to tackle the complexity of interactions that are involved.

Previous integration efforts

Scientists from GCTE, LUCC and IGAC developed a conceptual framework for the study of regional vulnerability to fire (Lavorel et al.). This framework links the drivers of regional fire dynamics, fire-atmosphere-climate feedbacks, and fire -ecosystem services-human systems feedbacks. A first global map of fires regimes was produced.

A recent IGBP-GAIM-TRACES workshop in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France (22-26 October 2002) brought together 38 ecologists, palaeoecologists, climatologists, vegetation modellers, atmospheric chemistry and aerosol modellers, and remote sensing experts to discuss the role of fire within the earth system, and with a specific aim of developing priorities for improved simulation of fire within Earth System Models. The meeting emphasised the biological, physical and chemical dimensions of fire. Human activities in terms of ignition, suppression and land use change were discussed, but the socio-economic and institutional drivers of these activities were not.

Objectives for a fast track initiative



Participating projects and groups


Lavorel, S., Flannigan, M. D., Lambin, E. F., & Scholes, M. Regional vulnerability to fire: feedbacks, nonlinearities, and interactions (submitted).

A. Spessa, W. Cramer, S. P. Harrison, N. Mahowald & I. C. Prentice. The Burning Question: Report of a Workshop on the Role of Fire in the Earth System. EOS newsletter, in press.