Vegetation outcomes from altered fire regimes: insights from tropical forests

Authors: Mark Cochrane*, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Izaya Numata, South Dakota State University, Sonaira S. Silva, Federal University of Acre
Topics: Global Change, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Land Use and Land Cover Change
Keywords: Wildfire, Fire Regime, Vegetation Change, Global Change
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Regency Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Human activities and ongoing climate changes are altering long-established patterns of wildfire occurrence across landscapes globally. The potential consequences for vegetation change are starkly evident in regions of tropical forests that are now experiencing unprecedented amounts of wildfire. Individual fires or bad fire-years tend to be seen as independent events that occur and then end, with little consideration of their importance beyond the tallying of the area that burned. As land use practices and climates change, historical fire regimes are shifting in terms of frequency, timing, severity and size of wildfires. Regional vegetation is a function of both the ambient climate conditions and the associated disturbance regimes. While fire events are noteworthy and directly actionable, what landscapes are experiencing now is a process of change wherein vegetation must adjust to new conditions. Tropical rainforests from the peatlands of Indonesia to the upland forests of the Amazon and Africa are ideal illustrations of this process because changes to regional fire regimes have been extreme and the affected vegetation is very responsive. Changes to forest structure, composition and type are ongoing and landscapes will need to be carefully managed if areas of existing native forests, with their associated biodiversity, are to be preserved.

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