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How contemporary bioclimatic and human controls change global fire regimes

Kelley, Douglas I. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1413-4969; Bistinas, Ioannis; Whitley, Rhys; Burton, Chantelle; Marthews, Toby R. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3727-6468; Dong, Ning. 2019 How contemporary bioclimatic and human controls change global fire regimes. Nature Climate Change, 9 (9). 690-696. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0540-7

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Abstract/Summary

Anthropogenically driven declines in tropical savannah burnt area have recently received attention due to their effect on trends in global burnt area. Large-scale trends in ecosystems where vegetation has adapted to infrequent fire, especially in cooler and wetter forested areas, are less well understood. Here, small changes in fire regimes can have a substantial impact on local biogeochemistry. To investigate trends in fire across a wide range of ecosystems, we used Bayesian inference to quantify four primary controls on burnt area: fuel continuity, fuel moisture, ignitions and anthropogenic suppression. We found that fuel continuity and moisture are the dominant limiting factors of burnt area globally. Suppression is most important in cropland areas, whereas savannahs and boreal forests are most sensitive to ignitions. We quantify fire regime shifts in areas with more than one, and often counteracting, trends in these controls. Forests are of particular concern, where we show average shifts in controls of 2.3–2.6% of their potential maximum per year, mainly driven by trends in fuel continuity and moisture. This study gives added importance to understanding long-term future changes in the controls on fire and the effect of fire trends on ecosystem function.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0540-7
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1758-678X
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Publisher link (see Related URLs) provides a read-only full-text copy of the published paper
Additional Keywords: biogeochemistry, climate change, climate-change impacts, climate sciences, environmental impact
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Related URLs:
Date made live: 20 Aug 2019 14:45 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/524820

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