Research Topic

Proceedings of the symposium ‘Wildfire Ecology and Life Evolution: From Ancient Time to Present’ of the International Congress of Ecology (INTECOL 2017 Beijing)

About this Research Topic

Wildfires are common and widespread in the modern ecosystems with about 60% of the Earth's land surface being burnt at least once within a 15-year period. Fossilised charcoals as evidence of the presence of ancient wildfire first appeared from the late Silurian 410 Ma, and have been recorded from all geological strata of sedimentary origin in all continents since. For decades, ecologists and paleobotanists overlooked the role of wildfire in shaping modern ecosystems and rather believed that climate and soil were the main factors controlling the distribution of biomes and ecosystems. The strong focus on the negative impact of wildfires on life and property has historically hindered our understanding of fire ecology. Only very recently, evidence becomes emerging that wildfire played a major role throughout the history of life on the Earth. Wildfire influences global ecosystem patterns and processes and has had a pronounced effect on the evolution of biotas and the distribution of ecosystem. There is accumulating evidence that fire-adapted lineages go back many tens of millions of years. These dates have been reconciled with fossil evidence.

Humans and our ancestors are the only fire-making species. As we have expanded our use of fire, our activities have become dominant in some ecosystems and have changed natural processes in ways that threaten the sustainability of many landscapes. Modern humans have altered; either increased or decreased, the levels of natural fire activity by clearing forests, promoting grazing, actively suppressing fires. Such activities have caused substantial ecosystem changes and loss of biodiversity. Some of these contemporary fire regimes have also caused significant economic disruptions as consequences of the destruction of infrastructure, degradation of ecosystem function and services, loss of life, and smoke-related health effects. The interaction between fires and climate change add to the future uncertainty. Our understanding of the role of fire in terrestrial ecosystem remains rudimentary, while knowledge on how fire has shaped our ecosystem in the past is essential to understand how humans have caused a departure from nature fire regime. We need to learn more about how wildfire interacts with a multitude of ecosystem processes. Particularly, we need better data on the past and current human influences on fire regimes, and a deeper understanding of different cultural traditions of landscape burning and the negative and positive social, economic and ecological effects.

This Research Topic focus on how wildfire as an ecological and evolutionary factor shaping terrestrial ecosystem from ancient time to the present, and how current knowledge can be translated into better fire management to achieve positive social, economic and ecological effects. Manuscripts (including research article, review, opinion) that are related to ecology, evolution, management, and culture concerning wildfires are welcome.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Wildfires are common and widespread in the modern ecosystems with about 60% of the Earth's land surface being burnt at least once within a 15-year period. Fossilised charcoals as evidence of the presence of ancient wildfire first appeared from the late Silurian 410 Ma, and have been recorded from all geological strata of sedimentary origin in all continents since. For decades, ecologists and paleobotanists overlooked the role of wildfire in shaping modern ecosystems and rather believed that climate and soil were the main factors controlling the distribution of biomes and ecosystems. The strong focus on the negative impact of wildfires on life and property has historically hindered our understanding of fire ecology. Only very recently, evidence becomes emerging that wildfire played a major role throughout the history of life on the Earth. Wildfire influences global ecosystem patterns and processes and has had a pronounced effect on the evolution of biotas and the distribution of ecosystem. There is accumulating evidence that fire-adapted lineages go back many tens of millions of years. These dates have been reconciled with fossil evidence.

Humans and our ancestors are the only fire-making species. As we have expanded our use of fire, our activities have become dominant in some ecosystems and have changed natural processes in ways that threaten the sustainability of many landscapes. Modern humans have altered; either increased or decreased, the levels of natural fire activity by clearing forests, promoting grazing, actively suppressing fires. Such activities have caused substantial ecosystem changes and loss of biodiversity. Some of these contemporary fire regimes have also caused significant economic disruptions as consequences of the destruction of infrastructure, degradation of ecosystem function and services, loss of life, and smoke-related health effects. The interaction between fires and climate change add to the future uncertainty. Our understanding of the role of fire in terrestrial ecosystem remains rudimentary, while knowledge on how fire has shaped our ecosystem in the past is essential to understand how humans have caused a departure from nature fire regime. We need to learn more about how wildfire interacts with a multitude of ecosystem processes. Particularly, we need better data on the past and current human influences on fire regimes, and a deeper understanding of different cultural traditions of landscape burning and the negative and positive social, economic and ecological effects.

This Research Topic focus on how wildfire as an ecological and evolutionary factor shaping terrestrial ecosystem from ancient time to the present, and how current knowledge can be translated into better fire management to achieve positive social, economic and ecological effects. Manuscripts (including research article, review, opinion) that are related to ecology, evolution, management, and culture concerning wildfires are welcome.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

15 January 2018 Manuscript

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Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

15 January 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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