Background: Managing landscape fire is a complex challenge because it is simultaneously necessary for, and increasingly poses a risk to, societies and ecosystems worldwide. This challenge underscores the need for transformative change in the way societies live with and manage fire. While researchers have the potential to act as agents of transformative change, in practice, the ability to affect change is often constrained by siloed and biased expertise, rigid decision-making institutions, and increasingly vulnerable social-ecological systems where urgent rather than long-term solutions are prioritized. Addressing these challenges requires more holistic and equitable approaches to fire research that promote new models of transdisciplinary thinking, collaboration, and practice.
Results: To advance transformative solutions to this complex fire challenge, we propose four principles for conducting transdisciplinary fire research: (1) embrace complexity, (2) promote diverse ways of knowing fire, (3) foster transformative learning, and (4) practice problem-centered research. These principles emerged from our experience as a group of early-career researchers who are embedded within and motivated by today’s complex fire challenge within British Columbia (BC), Canada. In this forum piece, we first describe the four principles and then apply the principles to two case studies: (1) BC, a settler-colonial context experiencing increased size, severity, and impacts of wildfires, and (2) our ECR discussion group, a space of collective learning and transformation. In doing so, we present a unique contribution that builds on existing efforts to develop more holistic fire research frameworks and demonstrates how application of these principles can promote transdisciplinary research and transformation towards coexistence with fire, from local to global scales.
Conclusions: In this forum piece, we identify and apply four guiding principles for transdisciplinary fire research. Collectively, these principles can foster more inclusive applied fire research that matches the scope and scale of today’s fire challenge and promotes transformative change towards coexisting with fire.