International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
REVIEW

Implications of changing climate for global wildland fire

Mike D. Flannigan A C , Meg A. Krawchuk B , William J. de Groot A , B. Mike Wotton A and Lynn M. Gowman A

A Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Great Lakes Forestry Centre, 1219 Queen Street-East, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, P6A 2E5, Canada.

B University of California, Berkeley, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, 335 Mulford Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: mike.flannigan@nrcan.gc.ca

International Journal of Wildland Fire 18(5) 483-507 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF08187
Submitted: 18 November 2008  Accepted: 15 June 2009   Published: 10 August 2009

Abstract

Wildland fire is a global phenomenon, and a result of interactions between climate–weather, fuels and people. Our climate is changing rapidly primarily through the release of greenhouse gases that may have profound and possibly unexpected impacts on global fire activity. The present paper reviews the current understanding of what the future may bring with respect to wildland fire and discusses future options for research and management. To date, research suggests a general increase in area burned and fire occurrence but there is a lot of spatial variability, with some areas of no change or even decreases in area burned and occurrence. Fire seasons are lengthening for temperate and boreal regions and this trend should continue in a warmer world. Future trends of fire severity and intensity are difficult to determine owing to the complex and non-linear interactions between weather, vegetation and people. Improved fire data are required along with continued global studies that dynamically include weather, vegetation, people, and other disturbances. Lastly, we need more research on the role of policy, practices and human behaviour because most of the global fire activity is directly attributable to people.

Additional keywords: area burned, carbon, emissions, fire activity, forest fire, intensity, management, modelling, occurrence, review, season, severity, weather.


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