Focus Groups

Focus Group A: Fire baselines by biome

Coordinator Anne-Laure Daniau, CNRS, Université de Bordeaux, France

Fire is projected to increase in specific regions of the globe in response to a concomitant global warming and regional dryness due to high levels of greenhouse gases, but large uncertainties and biases remain in integrating this non-linear process into global modelling of the Earth system. For some projections, only changes in climate variables are used to estimate the fire risk even though we know vegetation variability is an important determinant of fire dynamics and responds itself to change in climate.Read more

Dryness can cause fire activity to shift in opposing directions: an increase in fire when fuels are not limiting, or a reduction in fire when ecosystems are fuel-limited. A firm understanding of the baseline fire-vegetation relationships of an ecosystem is therefore necessary for making accurate projections about changing regional fire regimes. The aim of Focus Group A is to facilitate the development of theory in relation to such interactions under different climate boundary conditions. Collaborations between data experts and fire modellers on this topic will ensure that our understanding of the common rules of fire activity apply not only to modern ecosystems, but to those in the past and future as well. A workshop of the GPWG on this topical research is planned in September 2016 at Bordeaux (25-29 September), France (coordinators Anne-Laure Daniau and Tim Brücher). This workshop will particularly focus on transient and abrupt climate shifts, which can inform us about the response of fire to ongoing climate changes. Specifically, the objectives will be (but not limited to): 1) Identify the conditions when climate change systematically implies fire regime change,·     2) Determine when fire regime shifts are systematically associated with vegetation changes, 3)·  Determine when fire regime changes lead or lag vegetation change, 4) Explain how thresholds in some biomes can lead to irreversible fire regime change, 5) Characterize the resilience, adaptation and transformation of the vegetation in response to a change in the fire regime

Focus Group B: Fire risk & management

Coordinator Olivier Blarquez, Université de Montréal, Canada

Fire management practices constitute an important source of variation of fire regime worldwide. Fire management by different civilisations has varied in time following cultural revolutions and technological advances, and in space due to differences in climate, the structure of fuels and the provision of ecosystem services. Fire risk is thus perceived differently by societies and management practices evolve accordingly. In a changing world where fire risk constitutes an important threat to the global carbon cycle and the provision of ecosystem services, fire management based on interdisciplinary knowledge represents a challenge. Read more

 The fire risk and management research initiative will address several challenges: 1) broadly, what are the primary fire management practices around the world; 2) how do societies perceive fire risk in their environment and how do they adapt management strategies accordingly; 3) how can engagement with paleofire science inform those management strategies; and 4) what are better ways of increasing the effectiveness of communication between managers and fire ecologists. The group will involve fire practitioners, governmental agencies, stakeholders and scientists working on fire ecology. The challenges will be addressed by means of scientific literature reviews, interviews where applicable, synthesis of existing knowledge, and a GPWG2 workshop planned in October 2017 at Montréal, Canada (coordinator Olivier Blarquez et al.). The objectives of the workshop are to convene an international group of fire managers, scientists and stakeholders in order to bridge expertise from different domains, promote the cross-fertilization of ideas, and enhance collaboration. The workshop will focus on (but not be limited to): 1) fire management “best practices” according to biome type; 2) evaluation of “best practices” in an economic or ecological context; 3) assessment of ways to integrate long-term data, tools, and approaches from paleoecology into the evaluation process; 4) development of a framework for the integration of interdisciplinary knowledge into fire risk and management strategies; and 5) integration of climate change and ecosystem baselines and processes from paleoecology into fire management practices. This framework will eventually be useful for future global assessments (e.g. IPCC) and for governmental agencies facing strategic choices regarding fire management.

Focus Group C: Fire & biodiversity conservation

Coordinator Daniele Colombaroli, University of Bern and OCCR, Switzerland

Fire is an important determinant of forest structure and species composition, but its role in biodiversity changes over the long term is largely unknown. Baseline information from long-term data is particularly needed for restoration programs in many biodiversity hotspots, including alpine meadows, Mediterranean maquis, and tropical ecosystems.Read more

The aim of this focus group is to bring together experts interested in the long-term effects of fire on both taxonomic and genetic diversity, and to exploit available tools (e.g. GCD, pollen DB’s) to test relevant questions for biodiversity conservation. Those include: 1) biodiversity changes during cultural transitions (e.g. Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Europe, Iron Age in Equatorial Africa); 2) key ecological factors explaining global diversity patterns (i.e. the latitudinal diversity gradient); and 3) testing hypotheses on biodiversity response to disturbance regimes (e.g. intermediate disturbance hypothesis). Understanding how ecosystems with different histories of climate and human impact responded to past disturbances (both natural and anthropogenic) is highly informative for determining future responses of species and communities to global changes, and will fill a vital knowledge gap for biodiversity and ecosystem management. A workshop of the GPWG2 on this topical research initiative is planned in October 2018 at Berne, Switzerland (coordinator Daniele Colombaroli et al.).