International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The importance of the traditional fire knowledge system in a subtropical montane socio-ecosystem in a protected natural area

H. Leonardo Martínez-Torres A , Alicia Castillo A , M. Isabel Ramírez B and Diego R. Pérez-Salicrup A C

A Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Campus Morelia, Michoacán, México.

B Centro de Investigaciones en Geografía Ambiental, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Campus Morelia, Michoacán, México.

C Corresponding author. Email: diego@cieco.unam.mx

International Journal of Wildland Fire - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF15181
Submitted: 8 October 2015  Accepted: 6 May 2016   Published online: 11 July 2016

Abstract

The use of fire for traditional agriculture, animal husbandry and forestry is highly important to farmers in developing countries where this practice is continuously blamed as being the main cause of forest fires. That is the case in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR), Mexico, where paradoxically, little is known about the inhabitants’ traditional uses of fire. In this study we characterise fire users, describe traditional fire uses and identify the ecological and social rules involved in the use of fire in the MBBR. Through participant observation and semi-structured interviews we found a robust body of knowledge among local people regarding the geophysical and ecological factors determining fire behaviour. This information is transferred orally and through everyday practices from parents to children. We identified nine types of fire uses. The most common is ‘mound burns’, which entails a process of extraction-piling-drying-burning of weeds from agricultural fields. Social rules are aimed at decreasing the risk of forest fires. Our results suggest there is a traditional fire knowledge system in the MBBR that has undergone changes and has adapted to the ecological and social reality of the region during the past few decades.

Additional keywords: fire management, Mexico, Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Pennisetum clandestinum, use of fire.


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