8.03.05 - Forest fires


Lucy Amissah, Ghana

About Unit

Fire is a common disturbance across the global landscape with several hundred million hectares of vegetation burning every year. Rangeland and forest fires (collectively referred to as wildland fires) occur annually in all global vegetation zones, although much of this fire is locally unmonitored and undocumented. Fire researchers and fire managers around the world face many similar problems in terms of understanding the impacts of wildland fire on people, ecosystem health and economic sustainability.

The goal of this Unit is to support international fire research efforts to address these common issues, and to promote the exchange of fire research and fire management knowledge within the international fire community. Understandinhg both the regional and global impact of wildland fire is becoming even more important as climate change begins to affect environments and ecosystems around the world.

State of Knowledge

Fire plays an essential role in the structure and function of many ecosystems, but it can also have many serious negative impacts on human safety, health and regional economies. Wildland fire activity is not only influenced by the changing climate but through its signficant direct and indirect emission of  greenhouse gases to the atmosphere also has an influence of a key driver of global climate change. Fire management, including fire suppression and the prescribed use of fire, is becoming increasingly important and complex due to the wide range of environmental, social, and economic impacts.

The IUFRO Unit Forest Fires provides a link to internationally concerted fire research programmes and other international activities in collaboration in fire science, management and policy development. A joint fire information system has been set up at the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC), http://www.fire.uni-freiburg.de/

This global fire website facilitates the co-operation between scientists all over the world and ensures a timely flow of wldlanf fire-related information. The GFMC website is updated daily and also contains numerous sources relevant to the activities of other IUFRO Units.

Current key fire issues/questions for research study include: climate change-fire interactions, impacts of changing vegetation (fuel) conditions and fire regimes, increasing threat to human life, property and livelihoods by disaster fires, increasing human health risk (fire emissions), fire and biodiversity dynamics, and fire and forest carbon balance. There is also a trend to addressing fire problems through increased international cooperation by fire research and fire management communities. The IUFRO Forest Fires Unit supports this approach by facilitating networking of scientists and practitioners in the global fire community, and hosting wildland fire sessions on current fire research and applications during the IUFRO World Congress.