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Wildfires continue to cause damage to property, livelihoods and environments around the world. Acknowledging that dealing with wildfires has to go beyond fire-fighting, governments in countries with fire-prone ecosystems have begun to recognize the multiple perspectives of landscape burning and the need to engage with local communities and their practices. In this perspective, we outline the experiences of Brazil and Venezuela, two countries where fire management has been highly contested, but where there have been recent advances in fire management approaches. Success of these new initiatives have been measured by the reduction in wildfire extent through prescribed burning, and the opening of a dialogue on fire management between government agencies and local communities. Yet, it is clear that further developments in community participation need to take place in order to avoid the appropriation of local knowledge systems by institutions, and to better reflect more equitable fire governance.
New perspectives in fire management in South American
savannas: The importance of intercultural governance
Jayalaxshmi Mistry , Isabel Belloni Schmidt, Ludivine Eloy,
Bibiana Bilbao
Received: 12 October 2017 / Revised: 25 January 2018 / Accepted: 27 March 2018
Abstract Wildfires continue to cause damage to property,
livelihoods and environments around the world.
Acknowledging that dealing with wildfires has to go
beyond fire-fighting, governments in countries with fire-
prone ecosystems have begun to recognize the multiple
perspectives of landscape burning and the need to engage
with local communities and their practices. In this
perspective, we outline the experiences of Brazil and
Venezuela, two countries where fire management has been
highly contested, but where there have been recent
advances in fire management approaches. Success of
these new initiatives have been measured by the
reduction in wildfire extent through prescribed burning,
and the opening of a dialogue on fire management between
government agencies and local communities. Yet, it is clear
that further developments in community participation need
to take place in order to avoid the appropriation of local
knowledge systems by institutions, and to better reflect
more equitable fire governance.
Keywords Brazil Fire policy Indigenous Savanna
Traditional knowledge Venezuela
Wildfires wreak havoc on habitats and peoples around the
world. The 2017 Chile wildfires, 2016 Fort McMurray fires
in Canada, the regular catastrophic bushfires in Australia,
Portugal and the USA, and the annual burning of vast tracts
of forest and savanna ecosystems in the Amazon Basin and
Indonesia are emblematic of this capacity for impact. Over
the decades, scientists have expanded our understanding of
fire behaviour and ecology, the effects of burning on
landscape dynamics, soils and biodiversity, and fire’s
contribution to global warming (Scott et al. 2014,2016).
Yet, the extensive occurrence of wildfires continues to
highlight the gap between fire policies largely conceived in
classic conservation terms within colonial histories, and
local burning practices situated in specific environmental
contexts (Eloy et al. 2018).
At the same time, there is mounting evidence to show
the critical role of indigenous and traditional communities
in effective fire management (Trauernicht et al. 2015). For
example, satellite imagery from northern South America
suggests that indigenous lands have lower incidence of
wildfires and deforestation rates, which significantly con-
tribute to maintaining carbon stocks and biodiversity
(Nepstad et al. 2006; Nelson and Chomitz 2011; Flantua
et al. 2013; Nolte et al. 2013; Welch et al. 2013; Walker
et al. 2015). However, traditional ecological knowledge
(TEK) on fire management is still poorly described, rarely
addressing the spatial and seasonal patterns of local burn-
ing practices within the landscape. With the now wide-
spread recognition that eliminating landscape fires is not
only ecologically, but also socially and economically
unviable in fire-prone ecosystems (Bilbao et al. 2010;
Durigan and Ratter 2016; Mistry et al. 2016), countries in
South America are moving towards the potential of an
‘intercultural fire governance’ (Rodrı
´guez et al. 2013a,b);
governance that acknowledges the multiple perspectives of
landscape burning, thus reducing conflict amongst stake-
holders, and supporting locally threatened biological and
cultural diversity.
Fire has been used as a management tool by traditional
communities in savanna and forest environments around
ÓThe Author(s) 2018 123
the world for millennia (Bowman et al. 2011) and some
ecosystems such as tropical savannas are dependent on
regular burning (Durigan and Ratter 2016; de Carvalho
and Mustin 2017). Nevertheless, most countries adopted
‘zero-fire’ policies intended to avoid and control virtually
any fires, by focusing on fire-fighting techniques such as
fire brigades, technical support in the form of helicopters
and trucks, and predictive fire risk modelling, as well as
environmental education programmes to dissuade indige-
nous and local people from burning. Critiques of wide-
spread fire suppression policies underlined the unique role
fire plays in the ecologies and cultures in many parts of
the world, as well as highlighting the ineffectiveness of
these policies (McDaniel et al. 2005; Sletto 2008;Sor-
rensen 2009; Carmenta et al. 2013; Mistry et al. 2016).
This stimulated a turn in the tide as fire managers realized
that a different approach was needed; one that addressed
the continued occurrence of wildfires with the changing
socio-economic situation of countries, the conflict of
interests with local communities, and the emerging effects
of climate change.
Indeed, after several decades of frustrated attempts to
implement zero-fire policies, Brazil and Venezuela have,
over the last 2–3 years, started to consider and implement
fire management policies (Bilbao et al. 2010,2017;
Schmidt et al. 2016,2018) (Box 1). These policies seek to
reintroduce fire as a management tool in fire-prone
ecosystems in order to (re)create seasonal mosaic land-
scapes, manage dry fuel and avoid large and catastrophic
wildfires. This represents a major paradigm shift in fire
management policies. In Brazil, prescribed early dry
season fires, based on the Australian savannas experiences
of valuation and reinterpretation of indigenous burning
practices (Bliege Bird et al. 2008; McGregor et al. 2010;
Russell-Smith et al. 2013,2015), are an important aspect
of the management techniques which aim to consider
TEK and actively involve local communities. In Vene-
zuela, the integration of indigenous burning practices with
ecological knowledge from long-term collaborative fire
experiments in savanna-forest gradients constituted the
basis of a patch-mosaic burning model to be applied in
Canaima National Park (Bilbao et al. 2006,2009,2010;
´guez et al. 2013a,b). However, while signifying
major advances, as we discuss below these new fire
management programmes need to be based on rigorous
assessment of the local socio-ecological context in Brazil
and Venezuela to ensure management goals are achieved.
For example, the excessive concentration on early dry
season fires to prevent late dry season fires may in fact
affect the existence of landscape pyrodiversity and
exclude local productive activities (Oliveira et al. 2015;
Petty et al. 2015; Laris et al. 2016).
Box 1 Recent fire management developments in Brazil and
Since 2014, Brazil and Venezuela have started to consider and
implement fire management policies, through networks of
research, expertise and international cooperation.
In Brazil, the Ministry of Environment, co-funded by the German
Cooperation Agency and piloted in three large ([150 000 ha)
protected areas (PAs) initiated the Cerrado–Jalapa
˜o project.
Located in the northern Cerrado (savanna), this Integrated Fire
Management programme aims to: (i) change the predominant
burning season in PAs, especially reducing the areas hit by late-
dry season wildfires; (ii) protect fire-sensitive vegetation, such
as riparian forests, from wildfires; (iii) enhance PA staff
decision-making and fire management abilities, and; (iv)
decrease conflicts between PA and local communities. The
project has close links with the Australian savanna fire
management model (Russell-Smith et al. 2013,2015) and
involves advice and exchanges between Australian and
Brazilian park managers (Schmidt et al. 2018). Local research
to determine management goals and fire regimes, and
continuous evaluation will be essential to adapt international
experiences to the Brazilian socio-ecological context.
In Venezuela, there has been a longer history of trying to move
away from solely fire-fighting, focused in the Canaima
National Park (CNP) in the south-east of the country. The
CNP contains the headwaters of the Caronı
´River which
supplies the Guri Reservoir where 70% of the country’s
hydroelectric power is generated. Here, wildfires are a regular
occurrence, and in spite of carrying out expensive and
enormous fire suppression efforts, on average only 13% of
total fires are combated (EDELCA-CORPOELEC 2008). A
series of participatory action research projects funded by the
national science financing agency (FONACIT) have brought
together ancestral Pemo
´n indigenous fire knowledge,
scientific debate and inclusive dialogue between indigenous
communities, fire-fighters, institutional and academic
stakeholders about the socio-ecological issues of the CNP
(Bilbao et al. 2010,2017; Rodrı
´guez et al. 2013a,b). Fire
experiments initiated in 1999 for 11 years in savanna-forest
gradients simulating traditional Pemo
´n fire management
techniques have shown how burning at different times during
the dry season generate heterogeneous fuel patterns and
biodiversity which reduce the risk of hazardous wildfires and
protect the most vulnerable and diverse riparian and tropical
humid forests (Bilbao et al. 2006,2009,2010).
In the past 2 years, the Brazilian and Venezuelan experiences
have converged in several meetings and workshops, and we
(the authors) have organized and facilitated multi-stakeholder
meetings on fire management in Parupa, Venezuela (2015)
and in Brasilia, Brazil (2017)
involving local indigenous and
traditional community representatives, scientists,
environmental managers and government officials. These
have contributed to the development of a national fire
management policy in Brazil (currently at consultation phase
with the explicit aim to include traditional fire practices and
promote intercultural fire management) and the adoption of
intercultural and participatory fire management by the
Venezuelan government as part of their core policies and
plans for the Venezuelan Protected Areas National System.
123 ÓThe Author(s) 2018
There are advances and challenges associated with the new
fire management approaches in Brazil and Venezuela.
Here, we point out some of the inherent tensions and bar-
riers faced by fire managers.
This is the first time in Brazil and Venezuela that natural
resource managers are actively planning and starting large-
scale prescribed fires, a major step forward for conserva-
tion agencies (Rodrı
´guez et al. 2013a,b; Milla
Bilbao et al. 2017; Schmidt et al. 2016,2018). Although
there is a growing body of scientific knowledge on the
effects of fire on Neotropical biodiversity (Durigan and
Ratter 2016), not all species or situations have been stud-
ied. This is especially important when one considers the
broadly applicable information fire managers might need or
use to take management decisions (Driscoll et al. 2010).
The inherent dynamic nature of fire means that predicting
the outcomes of all actions is impossible, and a decision of
no-action (not actively managing fire) is also a manage-
ment decision with consequences.
In Brazil, for example, the past decades of ‘zero-fire’
policies in protected areas of the Cerrado (savanna) biome
have commonly led to large ([50 000 ha) areas being
consumed by wildfires in several hours or a few days
(Barradas 2017). Similarly, Canaima National Park in
Venezuela has been subject to increasingly larger fires,
reaching 32 000 ha in a single dry season, fuelled by high
accumulation of dry combustible materials (Bilbao et al.
2010). The human and financial resources mobilized to try
to control such wildfires exceed several times the protected
areas’ annual budget. The detrimental consequences of
such wildfires should therefore be compared to the poten-
tial benefits of smaller, controlled fires started with the
intention to create a burning mosaic that helps avoid
wildfire propagation. For that, managers should be allowed
to perform fire management considering uncertainty, and
the fact that all species and/or effects will not be known in
these highly diverse ecosystems.
Acknowledging that traditional groups from different
localities have in-depth contextual knowledge on fire
management (Mistry et al. 2005; Bilbao et al. 2010; Welch
2015; Eloy et al. 2017), new fire management policies in
Brazil and Venezuela are attempting to incorporate TEK
into their processes and techniques. In Brazil, for example,
elders from local communities are engaged to produce fire
calendars that form part of the prescribed burning plans. In
some instances, where the traditional practices of fire
management were lost, for example in the Indigenous
territory of the Xerente, Brazil, institutions are ‘rescuing’
TEK to reapply it for conservation purposes (Falleiro et al.
2016). A national fire management policy currently being
drafted in Brazil aims to explicitly include TEK and its
adaptive capacity to address current and future environ-
mental challenges. In Venezuela, the indigenous Pemo
communities of Canaima National Park have been involved
in joint ecological experiments as a process of strength-
ening and regaining fire TEK, as well as consulting and
learning from elders on fire calendars and ancestral prac-
tices. Improved dialogue between communities and insti-
tutions has led to a greater receptiveness by the Pemo
exchange and share their knowledge. The new fire man-
agement plan for the Park will consider both traditional,
technical and scientific knowledge to decide where, when
and how to set fires, as well as include formal agreements
between communities, EDELCA, INPARQUES and the
Ministry of Science and Technology (Bilbao et al. 2017).
These developments in fire policy and associated pro-
grammes are significant, and government institutional
advocacy for greater intercultural and participatory fire
management must be recognized. At the same time, further
improvements in the process of involving traditional
communities could lead to better outcomes for all. At the
multi-stakeholder meeting on fire management in Brasilia
in 2017, we (the authors) asked the indigenous and tradi-
tional community representatives, scientists, environmental
managers and government officials, to reflect on the fol-
lowing: What is participation? How is this viewed and
implemented by different actors? How could the formation
of official brigades affect the dynamics of collective fire
management in the communities? Who makes the deci-
sions? How can conservation institutions and local com-
munities interact to improve fire governance? How can fire
management be a community owned solution? How can
fire management be integrated into people’s everyday
activities and livelihoods? How can indigenous and sci-
entific knowledge work together for more effective fire
In the current policies, local community meetings are
central to the fire management programmes. However, staff
from environmental institutions are not trained nor used to
consider TEK to define or apply environmental policies,
exacerbated by the perception that TEK is something of the
past, static, without technical value and not responsive to
current and future challenges. In parallel, local communi-
ties have no valid reason to believe or collaborate with
institutions that have marginalized their knowledge and
practices for so long. Therefore, when these meetings are
performed, participation seems to be more of a ‘consulta-
tion’ where TEK is seen as a source of information that can
be incorporated into institutionalized processes, thus
(re)establishing hierarchical relationships where
ÓThe Author(s) 2018 123
environmental managers’ technical decisions are worth
more than local peoples’ opinions.
This can be made worse by the increasing dependency
on geospatial technologies and global science metrics
(emissions) (Sletto 2008; Mistry and Bizerril 2011;Car-
menta et al. 2013). In the well-documented Australian case,
large-scale burning often implemented by helicopters and
technicians, increased a sense of disengagement of Abo-
riginal people from their territory (Eriksen and Hankins
2014; Fache and Moizo 2015; Petty et al. 2015; Perry et al.
2018). Furthermore, to date, local participation in pre-
scribed burning schemes has come mostly in the form of
professionalized, and to some extent, militarized, rangers/
brigades. Brazil, for example, has invested in ‘community-
run’ brigades since the mid-2000s. Although these fire
brigades are used as a way to ‘integrate’ TEK and scientific
knowledge about fire management, the technical training
and the fact that people are hired specifically to manage fire
could move practices away from collective governance (a
norm in many traditional communities) to individual
actions, discouraging members of the wider community
from taking responsibility for wise fire management and
maintaining the subordination of local practices to those of
external experts (Mistry et al. 2016).
As seen in the Australian case, institutionalized fire
management programmes risk turning local communities
to beneficiaries of a service, rather than promoting self-
determination and responsibility for the management of the
land they live in (Eloy et al. 2016,2017). With a focus on
early dry season burning to protect against late dry season
wildfires, the policies fail to recognize that traditional fire
management is characterized by multiple, and sometimes
opportunistic, burning throughout the year linked to vari-
ous social, ecological and spiritual purposes, which pro-
duce the mosaic landscapes to help buffer the impacts of
climate variability and maintain biodiversity (Bilbao et al.
2009,2010; Laris et al. 2016). In addition, incorporating
local uses of fire for productive activities such as swidden
agriculture and livestock grazing can represent a challenge,
since these fires frequently depend on late dry season fires
which are generally perceived as ‘bad’ fires (Eloy et al.
Reflecting on Aboriginal fire management in northern
Australia, Petty et al. (2015) suggest that ‘‘it is inherent in
the nature of institutionalized management programs to
replace the complexity and contingency of indigenous fire
management with standardized goals’’ (p. 140). We see this
happening in Brazil.
Preliminary evidence from the Inte-
grated Fire Management (IFM) programme in Brazil shows
a small decrease in total burned area, but a significant
reduction in the percentage of late dry season emissions,
which is one of the main goals of the programme in the
three protected areas (Fig. 1). Since emissions from fires
account for 28% of land use emissions, this reduction is
now strategic for the Brazilian government and included in
its 2016 National Emission Inventory. However, there is
considerable uncertainty on the impacts of early dry season
burning on fire intensity and biodiversity (Oliveira et al.
2015; Laris et al. 2016). Long-term experiments from the
Gran Sabana, Venezuela have shown a higher daily vari-
ability in fire behaviour associated with weather conditions,
fine fuel load and wind velocity, compared to along the dry
season (Bilbao et al. 2006,2009,2010). Likewise, the
general pattern of plant cover and biomass recovering from
pre-fire conditions revealed higher and faster rates from
middle dry season burns compared to early and late burns
(Bilbao et al. 2009). A switch, therefore, from late to early
dry season burning requires much greater local level
assessments of above ground biomass, burn severity, fuel
burn completeness, and GHG emissions in order to provide
evidence for its efficacy towards improving savanna man-
agement and supporting local productive activities.
Achieving emissions reductions goals has led to a nar-
rative of and investment in ‘alternatives to the use of fire’
within the IFM programme. This is justified by arguments
that traditional fire knowledge has been or soon will be lost
so other solutions are needed, that fire-free methods are
more ‘modern’, productive and a way out of poverty, and
that carbon emissions from agriculture and grazing could
be reduced by fire-free farming and grazing techniques.
However, these approaches can only reinforce the idea that
traditional uses of fires are obsolete, indicating that
advancing fire management policies requires not only
technical and ecological information, but also much more
work on changing preconceptions and the dominant insti-
tutional discourses about fire use.
Recent meetings in Parupa, Venezuela and in Brasilia,
Brazil facilitated by the authors and involving local com-
munity representatives, scientists, fire/environmental man-
agers and government officials, have shown the importance
of bridging local, technical and scientific understandings of
fire and its governance (Rodrı
´guez et al. 2013a,b; Mistry
However, note that in Venezuela, over the past few years, there has
been significant commitment and understanding from the Forest
Firefighters of INPARQUES about the role and importance of TEK,
and they have encouraged and promoted full participation of the
indigenous Pemo
´n in fire management.
The following observations are derived from presentations made at
the Cerrado-Jalapa
˜o project meeting in Brasilia in November 2017.
123 ÓThe Author(s) 2018
and Berardi 2016). These events have allowed collabora-
tive and reflective dialogue on policy and practice, an
opportunity for learning across different communities, as
well as between communities and institutions. We argue
that supporting processes for integrating multiple per-
spectives through an ‘intercultural interface’ of institutions
and knowledge systems (Goldman et al. 2011; Howitt et al.
2013; Tengo
¨et al. 2014) is critical as Brazil and Venezuela
transition towards more participatory forms of fire man-
agement and governance. This can be done through:
training decision-makers and PA managers in partici-
patory methods that encourage engagement with, and
appreciation of, indigenous and traditional perspectives
and practices of fire management. For example, in a
recent workshop focused on the management of
Canaima National Park, we facilitated training for
scientists and government agencies on participatory
video and community owned solutions approaches to
working with indigenous communities.
legitimizing and strengthening indigenous and tradi-
tional fire management as a community owned solution
grounded in local social–ecological systems. For
example, promoting regional participatory workshops
and field experiments could help understand fire
behaviour, fire propagation and local productive fire
uses, and how they could be more effectively included
in fire management programmes. We are promoting
this in the Jalapa
˜o savanna region regarding the burning
of fire-sensitive wet grasslands. These areas are simul-
taneously targeted for fire management by local
Figure 1 Maps of burn scars according to fire season in the three protected areas of IFM implementation in the Brazilian savanna from 2014 to
2016. JSP Jalapao State Park, SGTES Serra Geral do Tocantins Ecological Station, CMNP Chapada das Mesas National Park. Prepared by
Ludivine Eloy (we used burn scars data from the Brazilian Institute of Space Research (INPE) (,
with a 30-m resolution produced from Landsat imagery. Using ArcGIS software, we compiled all the shapes of burn scars from 2014 to 2016,
dividing data between three periods: early, modal and late, with at least three sets of data per period (early dry season: 16th October–15th July;
mid dry season: 16th July–15th August; late dry season: 16th September–15th October). We adopted ICMBio’s periods and classification for fire
ÓThe Author(s) 2018 123
communities for plant harvesting and cattle raising, and
by landscape managers for protecting fire-sensitive
riparian forests. Finding common fire management
practices of these wet grasslands can improve produc-
tive practices, conserve biodiversity and reduce
creating spaces for continual multi-stakeholder conver-
sations about fire management, where different per-
spectives and experiences can be shared, and where
action plans to improve fire management can be co-
developed. Actions have to be aimed at encouraging
indigenous and traditional communities more auton-
omy with respect to implementing policies, including
the leadership and funding of fire management pro-
grammes. In Venezuela, a plan for joint training
between the Pemo
´n indigenous community of Kava-
´n, Canaima National Park and Forest Firefighters
of INPARQUES is underway. Elders of the Kavanaye
community will share their knowledge and train forest
firefighters on ancestral practices, and in turn firefight-
ers will train young Pemo
´n on fire combat techniques
used to control accidental wildfires. Prescribed fires
will be jointly planned, implemented and evaluated,
and indigenous representatives hope to share their
experiences with other indigenous communities in the
Brazil and Venezuela, two countries where fire man-
agement has been highly contested, have undergone a
major paradigm shift in their approaches to fire manage-
ment. Despite the progressive nature of these policies, it is
critical that we build a collective adaptive learning envi-
ronment in which we can experiment and monitor fire
management methods and interventions while giving an
equal footing to scientific and local knowledge as valid
systems of information that can be used for fire gover-
nance. Only by working hand in hand, can we prevent
frequent catastrophic wildfires and maintain local com-
munities’ livelihoods and cultures that help to protect
highly threatened fire-prone ecosystems.
Acknowledgements We thank all the participants of the meetings in
Parupa and Brasilia, the communities of the Jalapa
˜o Region
(Mateiros, Tocantins State), IBAMA, ICMBio, Naturatins in Brazil,
´n indigenous people from Kavanaye
´n, Forest Fire-fighters of
INPARQUES and Parupa Scientific Station (CVG) in Venezuela for
welcoming us and taking part in the research. Thanks to the two
reviewers for their insightful comments that greatly helped to improve
the paper. In Brazil, this study was funded by Gesellschaft fu
Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) through the ‘‘Cerrado Jalapa
Project. LE received research Grant from the CAPES through the
ˆncias sem fronteiras Fronteiras’’ Program (Grant Number
88881.068021/2014-01). JM and BB were supported by the British
Academy International Partnership and Mobility Scheme (Ref.
PM130370) and the Woodspring Trust, UK, and Venezuelan
FONACIT Risk and Apo
¨k Projects (Ref. 2011000376 and
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Jayalaxshmi Mistry (&) is a Professor of Environmental Geography
at Royal Holloway University of London. Her research interests
include environmental governance, fire management, bridging
indigenous and scientific knowledge systems, and participatory
Address: Department of Geography, Royal Holloway University of
London, Egham, Surrey TW200EX, UK.
Isabel Belloni Schmidt is an Assistant Professor at the University of
Brasilia. Her research interests include sustainable use and manage-
ment of Cerrado native areas, especially fire management and plant
Address: Departamento de Ecologia, Universidade de Brası
´lia, P.O.
Box 04457, Brası
´lia, DF CEP 70910-900, Brazil.
Ludivine Eloy is a Researcher in Geography at the French National
Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Invited Researcher at
University of Brasilia. Her research interests include traditional
resource management practices and their interfaces with environ-
mental norms, agrobiodiversity and agricultural landscapes dynamics
in Brazil.
Address: National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), UMR 5281
ART-DEV, Paul Vale
´ry University, 34090 Montpellier, France.
Address: Centro de Desenvolvimento Sustenta
´vel, Campus Univer-
´rio Darcy Ribeiro Gleba A Universidade de Brası
´lia - Asa Norte,
´lia, DF 70910-900, Brazil.
Bibiana Bilbao is a Professor at Simo
´n Bolı
´var University. Her
research interests include ecology of tropical savannas and human-
modified lands, and integration of ecological and indigenous knowl-
edge for sustainable and participatory management plans, especially
fire and natural resource management.
Address: Departamento de Estudios Ambientales, Universidad Simo
´var, Apartado 89000, Caracas 1080, Venezuela.
123 ÓThe Author(s) 2018
... Regarding the fire season, our results showed a higher fire occurrence at the end of the dry season after the creation of the park, as observed in other protected areas in other regions of Cerrado (Schmidt et al., 2016;Mistry et al., 2018;Eloy et al., 2019b). Initial data on the IFM Pilot Program that included the CMNP found a decrease in the burn scars numbers at the end of the dry season, when the years 2014 to 2016 were analyzed (Mistry et al., 2018), as observed in the present study. ...
... Regarding the fire season, our results showed a higher fire occurrence at the end of the dry season after the creation of the park, as observed in other protected areas in other regions of Cerrado (Schmidt et al., 2016;Mistry et al., 2018;Eloy et al., 2019b). Initial data on the IFM Pilot Program that included the CMNP found a decrease in the burn scars numbers at the end of the dry season, when the years 2014 to 2016 were analyzed (Mistry et al., 2018), as observed in the present study. Late fires can cause larger fires that have drastic consequences for the environment and society (Franke et al., 2018;Conciani et al., 2021), because they are hotter with a higher propagation spread due to a higher dry biomass accumulation (Rissi et al., 2017). ...
... Our results suggest the effects of the IFM on the fire regime pattern, by showing a slight increase in the density of ignition after its implementing, and the decreased of the annual mean burn scar area and mean annual burn area percentage in the CMNP, as in other Cerrado PAs that have started the IFM (Fidelis et al., 2018;Schmidt et al., 2020). The objective of the IFM is to carry out prescribed burning at the start of the dry season (Mistry et al., 2018;Schmidt et al., 2018;Eloy et al., 2019a) and create mosaics of burned areas and unburned (Fidelis et al., 2018) to decrease larger fire occurrence at the end of the dry season. Previous studies have found evidence of decreased total burn area in Cerrado protected areas after implementing IFM (Mistry et al., 2018;Schmidt et al., 2018), and even in years when there were big fires, IFM may have contributed to a reduce fire occurrence in these PAs (Fidelis et al., 2018). ...
... Fire management is not only limited to fire suppression but also includes various activities, such as fireprevention measures and the application of prescribed burning in areas of fire-prone vegetation [14,15]. In many places, it also comprises the traditional burning practices of the local communities [16,17]. ...
... Moreo- North America is the world's most studied area in terms of fire management, with at least 1453 documents. The remaining countries from the Americas sum up 217 documents; besides Brazil, other countries with more than 10 publications are Argentina (32 publications), Chile (26), and Venezuela (17). The second-most-studied continent is Europe (including Russia), with 577 published documents. ...
... Another important aspect of the thematic analysis is that fire-management studies seem to focus mainly on questions related to forestry and ecology. The human component, with an importance that is outlined in the introduction [8,16,17], seems to have received less attention; thus, fire-management research is a field dominated by the natural sciences, with a much less-represented minority of studies from the social sciences. However, these observations are not conclusive, given the generalized character of the present analysis. ...
Full-text available
Although humans have interacted with wildfires for millennia, a science-based approach to fire management has evolved in recent decades. This paper reviews the development of fire-management research, focusing on publications that use this term in their title, abstract, or keywords identified on the Scopus platform. This resulted in the identification of 5624 documents published between 1973 and 2021. Publication rates have particularly increased since 2010. The paper details the characteristics of this body of the literature, including the main authors, institutions, and countries. Furthermore, it considers the bibliographic networks, main research foci, and the publications’ study areas. First, these analyses provide researchers interested in fire management an overview of the field and its most prominent sources, authors, and publications. Second, they invite reflection on the current state of fire-management research. In particular, the considerable disparities in spatial foci and countries of authorship suggest that the challenges of today’s problems in fire management are more likely to be overcome with a more balanced global research effort.
... Previous experiences on the topic might aid the development of investigation in areas where no studies are present, but the former should be contextualized according to local socioecological conditions for enhancing positive outcomes. Also, multinational initiatives might aid to expand studies in Latin America and fulfil broad scale research agendas (De Angelo et al., 2011;Mistry et al., 2019). ...
... According to their type, our examination showed that projects were heavily developed following a contributory approach, revealing that the general public was mostly included in studies in a passive way as data collectors (Monzón Alvarado et al., 2020). Although contributory projects might ease data gathering on a broad scale during a relatively short time frame (Cooper et al., 2014), encouraging the active participation of the public in several research stages should deserve more attention as a means to seek the actual applicability of results (Couvet and Prevot, 2015;Pontes Ferreira and Gendron, 2011), promote environmental education (Mazón et al., 2016;Ramos-Escobedo et al., 2019), achieve social engagement in biodiversity research and conservation (Baxin Beltrán et al., 2020;Santander et al., 2012), foster the long-term duration of projects (Mistry et al., 2019;Stone et al., 2014), facilitate decision making (Cuéllar and Noss, 2014;Gómez et al., 2003), and exert an integral impact on the socioecological conditions of local communities (Álvarez and Shany, 2012;Constantino et al., 2012). Results suggested that most of the projects that we examined were performed following a citizen science approach imported from developed countries (Bonney et al., 2009;Sheppard et al., 2017). ...
Public inclusion in scientific endeavors has spread worldwide. Although participatory research has not been oblivious in Latin America, studies are better known from specific countries and the social sciences. We used an academic search engine for compiling the digital literature regarding public participation in biodiversity research (PPBR) performed in Latin America to understand its development, enable its comparison with similar research performed elsewhere, and contribute to the regional progress of the discipline. We obtained information for about 245 projects from the examined literature, observing that the growth of PPBR in Latin America has been substantial during the last two decades. Most studies were developed following a contributory approach, including the general public in a passive way. Encouraging the active involvement of participants in several research stages should deserve more attention for using the results in application issues, promoting environmental education, fostering long-term projects, facilitating decision making, and improving local socioecological conditions. In general, PPBR in Latin America is emulating a citizen science approach imported from developed countries. Future investigations could advocate to develop co-created and contractual projects for a more contextualized, equitable, and comprehensive research agenda. Impacts of PPBR in Latin America have been mostly academic; thus, further attempts must seek for inducing positive outcomes on the environment, productive activities, education, politics, and governance. Special attention should be paid to co-creating projects with rural, especially indigenous communities, including diverse knowledge systems, research approaches, and fostering transdisciplinary investigations, to increase our understanding of a bioculturally diverse Latin America through PPBR.
... To summarize, the IFM program is based on hiring and training residents of local communities as fire management agents to carry out prescribed burn and fire management, thus incorporating the ecological knowledge of traditional people into the proper fire management in each region (Mistry et al., 2018;Schmidt et al., 2018). Despite being an innovative proposal and still under analysis in the Brazilian federal parliament (PL 11276/2018(PL 11276/ , 2021, the experimental implementation of the IFM in three Brazilian protected areas brought satisfactory results to reduce large and severe fires in these regions (Eloy et al., 2019;Schmidt et al., 2018). ...
The flammable ecosystems are evolutionary dependent on the periodic action of fire. Several environmental factors, both at local and landscape scales, can affect fire regimes in these ecosystems differently. Here, we evaluated the influence of local and landscape features on two parameters of the fire regime of a flammable protected area of the Brazilian savanna: The Chapada Diamantina National Park. We characterized both fire frequency and the time since the last fire, from 1990 to 2019 and measured five environmental predictors (tree canopy cover, altitude, water surface, predominant land use and distance to the nearest municipality). We used Generalized Additive Models for Location, Scale and Shape (GAMLSS) to assess the influence of environmental predictors on the measured fire regime parameters. We found a large interannual variation in the total annual area burned in the studied period. In total, 68% of the protected area (1,030 km²) was burned at least once and 32% (486 km²) was unaffected by fires during the study period. Predominant land use, distance to the nearest municipality, tree cover and the interaction between tree cover and altitude were negatively related to fire frequency, while the water surface and altitude positively influenced fire frequency in the park. Compared to older fires, recent fires occurred in landscapes at lower altitudes and with lower tree cover. Our results demonstrate that the fire frequency and time since the last fire were highly variable across the park, reflecting the strong influence of landscape heterogeneity on their parameters.
... Wildfire detection is one final area where automation and optimization technologies have developed apace, especially for sensing, reporting, forecasting, and acting on fire events (Goh 2020). Forest fires, for instance, not only can be exacerbated by environmental conditions or local land-use practices but also by multilevel political processes (Harwell 2000;Mistry et al. 2019). The recent dismantling of the Brazilian environmental agenda by the Bolsonaro government coincided with large-scale forest fire events in the Amazon, but also transferred official fire monitoring responsibilities to the Ministry of Agriculture. ...
Full-text available
Forests are increasingly central to policies and initiatives to address global environmental change. Digital technologies have become crucial components of these projects as the tools and systems that would monitor and manage forests for storing carbon, preserving biodiversity, and providing ecosystem services. Historically, technologies have been instrumental in forming forests as spaces of conservation, extraction, and inhabitation. Digital technologies build on previous techniques of forest management, which have been shaped by colonial governance, expert science, and economic growth. However, digital technologies for achieving environmental initiatives can also extend, transform, and disrupt these sedimented practices. This article asks how the convergence of forests and digital technologies gives rise to different socio-technical formations and modalities of “political forests.” Through an analysis of five digital operations, including 1) observation, 2) datafication, 3) participation, 4) automation, and 5) regulation and transformation, we investigate how the co-constitution of forests, technologies, subjects, and social life creates distinct materializations of politics–and cosmopolitics. By building on and expanding the concept of cosmopolitics, we query how the political is designated through digital forest projects and how it might be reworked to generate less extractive environmental practices and relations while contributing to more just and pluralistic forest worlds.
... En el área de geografía humana, el enfoque social para estudiar el manejo del fuego ha sido restringido a pequeñas zonas. Esto a pesar de la importancia a nivel internacional de estudiar el uso y manejo del fuego desde diferentes enfoques como la gobernanza (Mistry et al., 2019) y la gestión del riesgo (Dunn et al., 2017) -líneas de investigación con una larga tradición en la geografía, lo que le permitiría a esta rama del conocimiento contribuir de mejor manera a los desafíos de gestión del fuego que enfrenta México-. ...
Resumen. En México se queman anualmente en promedio más de 400 mil hectáreas de vegetación natural, con repercu-siones en los ecosistemas y en la sociedad. El presente artículo revisa los enfoques, hallazgos y oportunidades en la inves-tigación geográfica de los incendios forestales en México. El análisis bibliométrico sugiere que los estudios de índole geográfica se han realizado en colaboración con grupos de investigación interdisciplinarios e interinstitucionales. Los resultados desde la perspectiva geográfica indican que los estudios de incendios se han realizado a lo largo y ancho del país, aunque hay una concentración mayor en el extremo noroeste y en el centro de México. Los temas principales de investigación geográfica son: 1) el análisis geoespacial, que se ha enfocado en determinar las zonas afectadas por incendios forestales, estimar las emisiones y elaborar mapas y modelos de riesgo; y 2) la documentación de los regímenes del fuego a partir de la dendrocronología, los sedimentos, y la estructura de la vegetación. En estas dos líneas de estudio se resalta el papel significativo del clima y de las actividades humanas en la incidencia de incendios forestales. En contraste, son escasos los estudios sobre el manejo del fuego desde la Geografía Humana. Aunado a esto, se requiere una mayor integración de los estudios desde las diferentes ramas de la disciplina y una mayor colaboración de geógrafos físicos, humanos y especialistas en el análisis geoespacial. Palabras clave: incendios forestales, manejo del fuego, riesgos socio-ambientales, conservación, análisis de redes bibliométricas Abstract. Forest fires are a phenomenon that impacts the environment and society. They cause severe adverse effects but also play a role in the natural dynamics of ecosystems. Mexico has a significant incidence of forest fires, with an annual average of more than 400 thousand hectares of burned natural vegetation in recent years. The complex merge of social and environmental causes and effects, and their implications in the territory, make forest fires an ideal topic of study from a geographic perspective. The objective of this work was to analyze the approaches, findings, and research opportunities of Geography regarding the territorial dynamics of forest fires in Mexico. This analysis comprised (1) the compilation of advances in geographic studies on the subject, (2) the discussion of the results of these studies and their relevance, and (3) the identification of challenges and opportuni
... En el área de geografía humana, el enfoque social para estudiar el manejo del fuego ha sido restringido a pequeñas zonas. Esto a pesar de la importancia a nivel internacional de estudiar el uso y manejo del fuego desde diferentes enfoques como la gobernanza (Mistry et al., 2019) y la gestión del riesgo (Dunn et al., 2017) -líneas de investigación con una larga tradición en la geografía, lo que le permitiría a esta rama del conocimiento contribuir de mejor manera a los desafíos de gestión del fuego que enfrenta México-. ...
Full-text available
En México se queman anualmente en promedio más de 400 mil hectáreas de vegetación natural, con repercusiones en los ecosistemas y en la sociedad. El presente artículo revisa los enfoques, hallazgos y oportunidades en la investigación geográfica de los incendios forestales en México. El análisis bibliométrico sugiere que los estudios de índole geográfica se han realizado en colaboración con grupos de investigación interdisciplinarios e interinstitucionales. Los resultados desde la perspectiva geográfica indican que los estudios de incendios se han realizado a lo largo y ancho del país, aunque hay una concentración mayor en el extremo noroeste y en el centro de México. Los temas principales de investigación geográfica son: 1) el análisis geoespacial, que se ha enfocado en determinar las zonas afectadas por incendios forestales, estimar las emisiones y elaborar mapas y modelos de riesgo; y 2) la documentación de los regímenes del fuego a partir de la dendrocronología, los sedimentos, y la estructura de la vegetación. En estas dos líneas de estudio se resalta el papel significativo del clima y de las actividades humanas en la incidencia de incendios forestales. En contraste, son escasos los estudios sobre el manejo del fuego desde la Geografía Humana. Aunado a esto, se requiere una mayor integración de los estudios desde las diferentes ramas de la disciplina y una mayor colaboración de geógrafos físicos, humanos y especialistas en el análisis geoespacial.
... Several authors agree that more studies and deeper engagement between Indigenous knowledge and state-led fire management need to be developed further (e.g. Mistry et al. 2019 for cases in Venezuela and Brazil) or are still missing (see below). ...
Full-text available
Existing knowledge about fires has been challenged by changes in forests and wildfire regimes. We carried out a systematic literature review involving both a global and a case study approach (Portugal) to investigate the configuration of the social dimensions of wildfires in academic literature. We advance two interlocking claims: (i) human dimensions of wildfires are often simplified into shallow indicators of anthropogenic activities lacking social and historical grounding, and (ii) fire knowledge of Indigenous peoples and/or other forest and fire users and professionals remains overlooked. These arguments were manifest from the global-scale review and were confirmed by the case study of Portugal. The individual perceptions, memories and cultural practices of forest and fire users and professionals and the historical co-developments of fires, people and forests have been missing from wildfire research. Including and highlighting those perspectives will both add to existing knowledge and inform policies related to fire management by making them socially meaningful. // Full-text access to a view-only version:
... In recent decades, with the increase in wildfires caused by the increased incidence of extreme climatic events and anthropogenic burning, the influences of wildfires on ecosystems, the natural landscape, and global biogeochemical cycles has gradually intensified (e.g., Bird and Cali, 1998;Crutzen and Andreae, 1990;Lehndorff et al., 2015;Whitlock et al., 2018). Hence, strict forest management and wildfire suppression policies have increasingly been adopted in many countries (Mistry et al., 2019). However, active fire suppression policies which omit the unique role of wildfires may result in increased tree density and biofuels availability that in turn result in more wildfires (Halofsky et al., 2020). ...
Full-text available
Global warming and human activities have significantly increased the wildfire risk in highly populated subtropical East Asia over recent decades; however, the factors driving fire occurrence on multiple timescales remain unclear. We present and analyze an observational dataset of fire for the Yunnan Plateau in southwestern China for the past 20 years, together with a Holocene fire history documented by four sedimentary black carbon records from four lakes on the Yunnan Plateau: lakes Dian, Xingyun, Qilu, and Yilong. Our aims were to explore the linkage between wildfires and natural and anthropogenic variables driving wildfire occurrence on multiple timescales. The results show that on a short timescale, more wildfires occurred in drier seasons, and on a longer timescale, more wildfires occurred during 6–2.8 cal kyr BP, when humidity decreased. In contrast, there was a moderate wildfire incidence during the relatively humid interval from 11.7 to 6 cal kyr BP. These observations indicate that fire activity is controlled by the humidity, against the background of the abundance of biofuel. The lowest degree of biomass burning occurred after ∼2.8 cal kyr BP and was linked to an anthropogenic reduction of biomass availability, despite an increase in drought. This suggests the importance of active fire management and prescribed clearance measures, especially given projections of continued drought and increased vegetation cover.
Full-text available
This review summarizes findings from 25 articles published together in Tropical Forest Issues 61 (Pasiecznik and Goldammer 2022), including contributions from 100 co-authors. Following a call for abstracts reviewed by a seven-strong panel of experts, case studies were selected from 16 countries in tropical America, Asia and Africa, along with articles summarizing the ecology, management and concepts related to fire management. This overarching synthesis draws out common lessons and key recommendations.
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RESUMO-Pela primeira vez no Brasil, queimadas prescritas de baixa intensidade no começo da estação seca foram implementadas em Unidades de Conservação (UC) do Cerrado como estratégia de manejo. Os objetivos destas queimadas são proteger áreas de vegetação sensíveis ao fogo, como mata ciliar; fragmentar e reduzir o combustível criando mosaicos de vegetação com diferentes estágios de regeneração pós-fogo; e mudar o atual regime do fogo, caracterizado pela ocorrência de grandes incêndios ao final da estação seca (agosto-outubro). Essas queimas prescritas fazem parte de um Programa Piloto de Manejo Integrado de Fogo (MIF) que foi implementado em 2014 em três UC do Cerrado: o Parque Nacional da Chapada das Mesas (PNCM), Parque Estadual do Jalapão (PEJ) e Estação Ecológica Serra Geral do Tocantins (EESGT). Durante a implementação do programa, foram acompanhadas e realizadas medições de parâmetros ecológicos que são apresentadas neste artigo. Adicionalmente, descrevemos o desenho experimental que inclui o estabelecimento de parcelas permanentes para o acompanhamento de longo prazo dos efeitos das queimas precoces prescritas em comparação com áreas queimadas no final da estação seca (simulação de incêndios) e áreas não queimadas, estabelecidas nestas três UC em 2015. Resultados em 2014 indicam que as queimas prescritas foram de baixa intensidade devido à época e a hora de início das queimas, com baixa velocidade de propagação e consumo de combustível que variou entre 46 e 84%. A partir desta experiência, apresentamos questões de manejo e pesquisa que devem ser consideradas para o planejamento e implementação de MIF em UCs como as razões de uso do fogo e percepções das comunidades locais sobre os efeitos dos diferentes tipos de fogo. Palavras-chave: Intensidade de queima; parcelas permanentes; monitoramento da vegetação. ABSTRACT-For the first time in Brazil, low intensity prescribed fires at the beginning of the dry season were implemented in Cerrado protected areas as a management strategy. The objectives of these burns are to protect fire-sensitive vegetation such as riparian forests; to reduce and fragment fuel loads creating vegetation mosaics with different stages of post-fire regeneration; and to change the current fire regime, characterized by large wildfires during late dry season (August-October). These prescribed burns are part of an Integrated Fire Management (IFM) Pilot Program, which was implemented in 2014 in three protected areas of Cerrado: Chapada das Mesas National Park (CMNP), the Jalapão State Park (JSP) and the Serra Geral do Tocantins Ecological Station (SGTES). During the program implementation, several ecological parameters were measured and are reported in this article. In addition, we describe the experimental design for establishing permanent plots for long-term monitoring of the effects of early dry season prescribed burning in comparison to late burning and unburned areas, which we established in the three protected areas in 2015. Results from 2014 show that prescribed burns were of low intensity due to the season and the start time of burning with low fire line spread rates and fuel consumption ranging between 46 and 84%. From this
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RESUMO-Dentre as recentes mudanças relativas ao controle dos incêndios florestais no Brasil, a implementação do Manejo Integrado do Fogo (MIF) e a criação das Brigadas Indígenas apresentaram uma sinergia quase perfeita. Baseada na inclusão de aspectos sociais, culturais e ecológicos às técnicas consagradas de prevenção e combate aos incêndios florestais, a implementação do MIF nas Terras Indígenas (TIs) no Cerrado proporcionou o resgate de conhecimentos tradicionais que vinham sendo perdidos e a validação de técnicas de manejo ancestrais. O Programa de Brigadas Indígenas (BRIFs) forneceu capacitação, remuneração e técnicos para a execução das atividades de proteção ambiental, além de outros benefícios às comunidades indígenas. É importante destacar que, no início, os trabalhos foram marcados pelas mesmas falhas características da maior parte dos programas de controle de incêndios implementados no Brasil até então. Isto é, foi pautado em atividades e técnicas baseadas nas "políticas de fogo zero", sem compreender a relação dessas comunidades com o fogo e o meio ambiente. O MIF resolveu esse problema, contribuindo para a proteção ambiental, preservação da cultura indígena, geração de alternativas de renda, segurança alimentar, conservação da biodiversidade e redução de emissões de gases de efeito estufa. Nesse trabalho apresentamos um breve histórico da implementação do MIF e do Programa BRIFs nas TIs, com o objetivo de auxiliar no aperfeiçoamento e expansão das atividades de prevenção e controle dos incêndios florestais no Brasil. Em uma época em que as mudanças climáticas e culturais afetam cada vez mais as comunidades indígenas, essa inesperada junção, entre o conhecimento tradicional sobre o uso do fogo e a conservação ambiental, demonstra que parte das soluções para os problemas atuais pode passar por iniciativas simples e de baixo custo. Palavras-chave: Índios; conhecimento tradicional; ecologia do fogo; manejo tradicional; queima prescrita. Recebido em
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Several decades of frustrated attempts to prevent fires in the Brazilian savanna (Cerrado) have led to deleterious ecological and management consequences. In 2014, the first Integrated Fire Management (IFM) programme was launched in three protected areas (PA). 2.The IFM program considers local practices, ecological information, management options, and aims to create landscape mosaics of different fire histories to conserve biodiversity, reduce the prevalence of late-dry season (LDS) wildfires, protect fire-sensitive vegetation, and reduce conflicts between PA managers and local communities. 3.The first three years of imposed fire management regimes led to 40-57% reduction in LDS fires, improved dialogue between researchers, managers and local communities, generating fire management learning communities. 4.Synthesis and applications. This Integrated Fire Management programme represents a major advance in Cerrado management and conservation, by actively managing fires and decreasing the proportion of areas burnt by late-dry season wildfires. It can contribute to protected areas’ management in the Cerrado and other South American fire-prone ecosystems. Long-term monitoring and research are essential to understand the ecological implications and to improve fire management practices. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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This chapter summarises pioneer experiences facilitating the integration of scientific knowledge, Institutional capabilities and traditional Indigenous knowledge and practices of Pemón people in Gran Sabana, Canaima National Park, Venezuela, for the development of an intercultural and participatory fire management policy beneficing restoration of fire-affected ecosystems, indigenous livelihood and cultural heritage.
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The National Park of Canaima is located in south-east Venezuela and forms part of the ancient geological Guyana-shield formation. It is currently the most habituated natural park in Venezuela, as more than three quarters of the population of the indigenous Pemón live inside the borders of the national park. As the traditional inhabitants and main beneficiaries of a long-term conservation of the park’s natural resources, the Pemón people are in need of sustainable management strategies for their territory to be able to reduce the pressures on the park’s ecosystems. For this purpose, qualitative information on the land use and resources exploitation by the different actors is indispensable. This paper provides quantitative and qualitative information on the land use patterns in the western zone of the park, aiming to characterize the indigenous agricultural system using spatial analysis by GIS and Remote Sensing, complemented by fieldwork surveys. Results are presented by the use of maps, satellite imagery and descriptive analysis of fieldwork data. It is shown that significant differences exist in land use practices between the different communities, specifically in the distribution patterns of settlements and agricultural plots (conucos), the time of use of the plots, and the application of the traditional rotation system. Based on the findings it is stated that a sustainable agricultural system is maintained which presents a relatively low impact, due to either the designated zones of agricultural activities or the dispersed pattern of the conucos.
Fire has been a critical component of Aboriginal culture and natural resource management in Australia for millennia. Aboriginal fire management in Northern Australia is widespread and, in some more remote areas, has continued relatively undisrupted despite widespread changes in tenure and land use. For the Wik people of Western Cape York, there has been a continued connection to their culture and traditional lands. Recently, Wik traditional owners have formed a ranger program which has secured funding to manage contemporary land management issues. This includes the landscape-scale management of fire for biodiversity conservation and greenhouse gas abatement. Because the work is being conducted by Aboriginal people, with consent from traditional owners and on their traditional lands, there is an assumption that the activities are compatible with historical traditional land management and cultural practices. In this study, we use participatory action research to compare contemporary fire management with the current understanding of traditional Aboriginal fire management to assess objectively the compatibility of these two paradigms. We do this by combining the experience and understanding of traditional owners with anthropological and ecological perspectives. We find that contemporary fire management is applied across traditional cultural boundaries using methods such as aerial incendiaries. Financial incentives and contractual obligations associated with fire management are externally driven or include modern considerations such as the protection of infrastructure. In contrast, traditional fire management was the prerogative of traditional owners and was applied at fine scales for specific outcomes. Fire management was governed by rules that determined how people moved across the landscape and how resources were partitioned and shared. Supporting the implementation of Aboriginal burning alongside current fire management practices could lead to significant community engagement in such activities and is likely to have much better biodiversity and social outcomes.
The biodiversity of the Amazonian savannahs may be lost before it is known, unless scientists, conservationists and policymakers come together quickly to protect it.
A fundamental principal of savanna fire ecology is that the fire regime determines vegetation cover, especially as it pertains to trees. A corollary is that late fires are more damaging to trees than early fires. Much evidence in support of this principle has been derived from a series of long-term burning experiments based on the pioneering work of André Aubréville. Eighty years ago, Aubréville devised an experiment to study the impacts of fire on savanna trees in Africa. The design conventions of this study remain highly influential. It is now clear, however, that the dates chosen by Aubréville and his followers do not reflect the burning practices of West African people. Dates that were chosen for “early” and “late” are not representative of actual fire timing; they represent extremes. This study has four goals: (i) to critically review the results of the burning experiments; (ii) to examine them in the context of results from recent savanna fire studies; (iii) to evaluate their limitations based on data for actual burning practices and fires from West Africa; and (iv) to critically evaluate the use of the early/late terminology in contemporary fire research. We find the majority of West African fires occur during the “middle” of the fire season. Our field studies find that fire temperature and burn completeness are highest in the middle-season. We conclude that the early/late fire dichotomy is not sufficient for understanding the impacts of anthropogenic fires in the region and we make suggestions for rethinking its use more broadly.