Research Topic

Climate, Land Use, and Fire: Can Models Inform Management?

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About this Research Topic

In recent years there has been a convergence of evidence that the climate is changing posing significant risks to ecological systems. One of these risks is a change in the fire regime such as increased frequency or intensity.
Recent findings show that agricultural expansion and intensification in ...

In recent years there has been a convergence of evidence that the climate is changing posing significant risks to ecological systems. One of these risks is a change in the fire regime such as increased frequency or intensity.
Recent findings show that agricultural expansion and intensification in savannas are causing declining fire activity while heat waves and droughts have increased fire occurrence in forested areas and Mediterranean ecosystems causing vegetation shifts.

While research continues to improve climate projections and create scenarios of plausible changes in climate trends and variability, ecologists strive to better understand plant responses to increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 that cause changes in ecosystem carbon and water cycles and thus fuel loads. Fire modelers are tackling the importance of human behavior and decisions to better represent a global view of fire effects.
The level of uncertainty linked to human actions is much greater since humans are responsible for: fire ignitions in places and at times of year that ecosystems have not been subject to in the past; the introduction of invasive species that cause surface fuel continuity where patchiness prevented fire spread; fire suppression allowing the expansion of fire sensitive species and creating non resilient landscapes; the establishment of fire prone single-species single-aged tree plantations; the expansion of urban wildlife interface ignoring the legacy of fires and causing maladapted management.
As climate stress increases and local conflicts force local populations to move, large-scale migrations have started to occur which exacerbates human impacts around the planet. The goal to simulate both natural responses to climate change as well as the role of humans on fire occurrence and effects becomes mostly unrealistic for long term forecast. Priorities need to be clearly delineated in order to both better understand ecosystem responses to changes in the disturbance cycle but also to deliver useful information and tools to land managers and decision makers preparing for the next fire season.

This Research Topic will explore how fire model projections across scales can be used to assess system vulnerability to fire under changing climate conditions, to evaluate a variety of options to address these vulnerabilities, and to help design effective land management options to prevent human lives and infrastructure to be lost. Although the sciences of both climate and ecology have substantial and evolving uncertainties, there are immediate needs for knowledge and data to support vulnerability assessments and develop effective adaptive strategies.

We welcome contributions illustrating how a diversity of modeling approaches can help inform stakeholders (general public and land managers, hopefully also policy makers) on:

(1) the relative importance of climate, vegetation, and humans on fire occurrence across spatial and temporal scales,
(2) the effects of fire on vegetation, atmosphere and society,
(3) the role of fire in the carbon cycle (sequestration versus emissions), and
(4) the feedbacks between climate change, land use, and wildfires, with a special focus on the effective transfer of this information to the stakeholders who need it to better prepare and make more informed decisions.


Keywords: Fire, Land Management, Spatial Scale, Climate Change, Models, Land Use


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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