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Fire as a fundamental ecological process: Research advances and frontiers

Author(s): Kendra K. McLauchlan, Philip E. Higuera, Jessica R. Miesel, Brendan M. Rogers, Jennifer A. Schweitzer, Jacquelyn Kremper Shuman, Alan J. Tepley, J. Morgan Varner, Thomas T. Veblen, Solny A. Adalsteinsson, Jennifer Balch, Enric Batllori, Erica R. Bigio, Paulo M. Brando, Megan E. Cattau, Janice L. Coen, Raelene M. Crandall, Lori D. Daniels, Neal J. Enright, Wendy S. Gross, Brian J. Harvey, Jeff A. Hatten, Sharon M. Hermann, Rebecca E. Hewitt, Leda N. Kobziar, Jennifer B. Landesmann, Michael M. Loranty, S. Yoshi Maezumi, Linda Mearns, Max A. Moritz, Jonathan A. Myers, Juli G. Pausas, Adam F. A. Pellegrini, William J. Platt, Jennifer Roozeboom, Hugh Safford, Fernanda Santos, Robert M. Scheller, Rosemary L. Sherriff, Kevin G. Smith, Melinda D. Smith, Adam C. Watts
Year Published: 2020

1. Fire is a powerful ecological and evolutionary force that regulates organismal traits, population sizes, species interactions, community composition, carbon and nutrient cycling, and ecosystem function. It also presents a rapidly growing societal challenge, due to both increasingly destructive wildfires and fire exclusion in fire‐dependent ecosystems. As an ecological process, fire integrates complex feedbacks among biological, social, and geophysical processes, requiring coordination across several fields and scales of study.

2. Here, we describe the diversity of ways in which fire operates as a fundamental ecological and evolutionary process on Earth. We explore research priorities in six categories of fire ecology: (1) characteristics of fire regimes, (2) changing fire regimes, (3) fire effects on aboveground ecology, (4) fire effects on belowground ecology, (5) fire behaviour, and (6) fire ecology modelling.

3. We identify three emergent themes: the need to study fire across temporal scales, to assess the mechanisms underlying a variety of ecological feedbacks involving fire, and to improve representation of fire in a range of modelling contexts.

4. Synthesis: As fire regimes and our relationships with fire continue to change, prioritizing these research areas will facilitate understanding of the ecological causes and consequences of future fires and rethinking fire management alternatives.

Citation: McLauchlan, Kendra K.; Higuera, Philip E.; Miesel, Jessica; Rogers, Brendan M.; Schweitzer, Jennifer; Shuman, Jacquelyn K.; Tepley, Alan J.; Varner, J. Morgan; Veblen, Thomas T.; Adalsteinsson, Solny A.; Balch, Jennifer K.; Baker, Patrick; Batllori, Enric; Bigio, Erica; Brando, Paulo; Cattau, Megan; Chipman, Melissa L.; Coen, Janice; Crandall, Raelene; Daniels, Lori; Enright, Neal; Gross, Wendy S.; Harvey, Brian J.; Hatten, Jeff A.; Hermann, Sharon; Hewitt, Rebecca E.; Kobziar, Leda N.; Landesmann, Jennifer B.; Loranty, Michael M.; Maezumi, S.Yoshi; Mearns, Linda; Moritz, Max; Myers, Jonathan A.; Pausas, Juli G.; Pellegrini, Adam F.A.; Platt, William J.; Roozeboom, Jennifer; Safford, Hugh; Santos, Fernanda; Scheller, Robert M.; Sherriff, Rosemary L.; Smith, Kevin G.; Smith, Melinda D.; Watts, Adam C. 2020. Fire as a fundamental ecological process: research advances and frontiers. Journal of Ecology online early. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.13403
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Simulation Modeling, Fire Regime, Fire & Climate, Fuels, Fuel Treatments & Effects, Prescribed Fire-use treatments
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Synthesis
NRFSN number: 21390
FRAMES RCS number: 61137
Record updated: Jun 22, 2020