According to the 2022 UNEP’s Frontiers Report, the regime of wildfires affecting Earth’s ecosystems is changing. The changes are due to increases in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the atmosphere, changes in land use, and other human activities.
Wildfires are uncontrolled fires that burn in vegetation. While some fires are naturally occurring, other fires are started by humans as a land management practice, to clear land for human settlements, deforestation, resource extraction, and agricultural use, all of which interfere with the natural occurrence of fires. Fire regimes involve three factors: the severity and intensity of a fire, the frequency of a fire, and the time of year or season of the fire.
Extreme weather events are also contributing to shifts in fire regimes, and global warming influences longer fire seasons. For example, monitoring conducted by Natural Resources Canada indicates that with drier conditions expected in the years ahead, there will be a “1.5-fold increase in the number of large fires by the end of the 21st century.”
While providing valuable information on the ecology of wildfires, the 2022 UNEP Frontier’s Report highlights the importance of developing a “system and whole-of-landscape approach” to fire and land management that draws from Indigenous cultural and ecological knowledge to manage wildfires. Indigenous Fire Stewardship (IFS) and Indigenous fire management practices in the fire-prone savannahs of North Australia, Brazil, and Botswana are a few approaches that have been proven to be effective in managing the changing regime of wildfires.
By Leela Viswanathan
(Photo Credit: Joanne Francis, Unsplash)