Fire and biodiversity in the Anthropocene
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BACKGROUND Fire has shaped the diversity of life on Earth for millions of years. Variation in fire regimes continues to be a source of biodiversity across the globe, and many plants, animals, and ecosystems depend on particular temporal and spatial patterns of fire. Although people have been using fire to modify environments for millennia, the combined effects of human activities are now changing patterns of fire at a global scale—to the detriment of human society, biodiversity, and ecosystems. These changes pose a global challenge for understanding how to sustain biodiversity in a new era of fire. We synthesize how changes in fire activity are threatening species with extinction across the globe, highlight forward-looking methods for predicting the combined effects of human drivers and fire on biodiversity, and foreshadow emerging actions and strategies that could revolutionize how society manages fire for biodiversity in the Anthropocene. ADVANCES Our synthesis shows that interactions with anthropogenic drivers such as global climate change, land use, and biotic invasions are transforming fire activity and its impacts on biodiversity. More than 4400 terrestrial and freshwater species from a wide range of taxa and habitats face threats associated with modified fire regimes. Many species are threatened by an increase in fire frequency or intensity, but exclusion of fire in ecosystems that need it can also be harmful. The prominent role of human activity in shaping global ecosystems is the hallmark of the Anthropocene and sets the context in which models and actions must be developed. Advances in predictive modeling deliver new opportunities to couple fire and biodiversity data and to link them with forecasts of multiple drivers including drought, invasive plants, and urban growth. Making these connections also provides an opportunity for new actions that could revolutionize how society manages fire. Emerging actions include reintroduction of mammals that reduce fuels, green fire breaks comprising low-flammability plants, strategically letting wildfires burn under the right conditions, managed evolution of populations aided by new genomics tools, and deployment of rapid response teams to protect biodiversity assets. Indigenous fire stewardship and reinstatement of cultural burning in a modern context will enhance biodiversity and human well-being in many regions of the world. At the same time, international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are crucial to reduce the risk of extreme fire events that contribute to declines in biodiversity. OUTLOOK Conservation of Earth’s biological diversity will be achieved only by recognition of and response to the critical role of fire in shaping ecosystems. Global changes in fire regimes will continue to amplify interactions between anthropogenic drivers and create difficult trade-offs between environmental and social objectives. Scientific input will be crucial for navigating major decisions about novel and changing ecosystems. Strategic collection of data on fire, biodiversity, and socioeconomic variables will be essential for developing models to capture the feedbacks, tipping points, and regime shifts characteristic of the Anthropocene. New partnerships are also needed to meet the challenges ahead. At the local and regional scale, getting more of the “right” type of fire in landscapes that need it requires new alliances and networks to build and apply knowledge. At the national and global scale, biodiversity conservation will benefit from greater integration of fire into national biodiversity strategies and action plans and in the implementation of international agreements and initiatives such as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Placing the increasingly important role of people at the forefront of efforts to understand and adapt to changes in fire regimes is central to these endeavors.
Kelly , L T , Giljohann , K M , Duane , A , Aquilué , N , Archibald , S , Batllori , E , Bennett , A F , Buckland , S T , Canelles , Q , Clarke , M F , Fortin , M-J , Hermoso , V , Herrando , S , Keane , R E , Lake , F K , McCarthy , M A , Morán-Ordóñez , A , Parr , C L , Pausas , J G , Penman , T D , Regos , A , Rumpff , L , Santos , J L , Smith , A L , Syphard , A D , Tingley , M W & Brotons , L 2020 , ' Fire and biodiversity in the Anthropocene ' , Science , vol. 370 , no. 6519 , eabb0355 . https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abb0355
Copyright © 2020 the Author(s). This work has been made available online in accordance with publisher policies or with permission. Permission for further reuse of this content should be sought from the publisher or the rights holder. This is the author created accepted manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abb0355 .
DescriptionThe workshop leading to this paper was funded by the Centre Tecnològic Forestal de Catalunya and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions. L.T.K. was supported by a Victorian Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (Victorian Government), a Centenary Fellowship (University of Melbourne), and an Australian Research Council Linkage Project Grant (LP150100765). A.R. was supported by the Xunta de Galicia (Postdoctoral Fellowship ED481B2016/084-0) and the Foundation for Science and Technology under the FirESmart project (PCIF/MOG/0083/2017). A.L.S. was supported by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (746191) under the European Union Horizon 2020 Programme for Research and Innovation. L.R. was supported by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program through the Threatened Species Recovery Hub. L.B. was partially supported by the Spanish Government through the INMODES (CGL2014-59742-C2-2-R) and the ERANET-SUMFORESTS project FutureBioEcon (PCIN-2017-052). This research was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station.
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