Reimagine fire science for the Anthropocene

Fire is an integral component of ecosystems globally and a tool that humans have harnessed for millennia. Altered fire regimes are a fundamental cause and consequence of global change, impacting people and the biophysical systems on which they depend. As part of the newly emerging Anthropocene, marked by human-caused climate change and radical changes to ecosystems, fire danger is increasing, and fires are having increasingly devastating impacts on human health, infrastructure, and ecosystem services. Increasing fire danger is a vexing problem that requires deep transdisciplinary, trans-sector, and inclusive partnerships to address. Dr. Archana Dayalu, Staff Scientist at Verisk Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER), recently participated in a workshop spearheaded by the National Science Foundation that outlined barriers and opportunities in the next generation of fire science and provided guidance for investment in future research. Dr. Dayalu was also part of the team that translated the ideas from the workshop into a peer-reviewed paper synthesizing insights needed to better address the long-standing challenges of innovation across disciplines to (i) promote coordinated research efforts; (ii) embrace different ways of knowing and knowledge generation; (iii) promote exploration of fundamental science; (iv) capitalize on the “firehose” of data for societal benefit; and (v) integrate human and natural systems into models across multiple scales. Fire science is thus at a critical transitional moment. We need to shift from observation and modeled representations of varying components of climate, people, vegetation, and fire to more integrative and predictive approaches that support pathways towards mitigating and adapting to our increasingly flammable world, including the utilization of fire for human safety and benefit. Only through overcoming institutional silos and accessing knowledge across diverse communities can we effectively undertake research that improves outcomes in our more fiery future.


Figure 1:  We need a proactive fire research agenda to support human values and create safe communities as impacts from lightning and unplanned human-caused wildfires increase in the Anthropocene. Such an agenda will span multiple disciplines and translate understanding to application while answering fundamental science questions, incorporating diverse and inclusive partnerships for knowledge coproduction, capitalizing on the wealth of new and existing data, and developing models that integrate human dimensions and values.


Citation / Link:  Reimagine fire science for the anthropocene

 K. Shuman, J. K. Balch, R. T. Barnes, P. E. Higuera, C. I. Roos, D. W. Schwilk, E. N. Stavros, T. Banerjee, M. M. Bela, J. Bendix, S. Bertolino, S. Bililign, K. D. Bladon, P. Brando, R. E. Breidenthal, B. Buma, D. Calhoun, L. M. V. Carvalho, M. E. Cattau, K. M. Cawley, S. Chandra, M. L. Chipman, J. Cobian-Iñiguez, E. Conlisk, J. D. Coop, A. Cullen, K. T. Davis, A. Dayalu, F. De Sales, M. Dolman, L. M. Ellsworth, S. Franklin, C. H. Guiterman, M. Hamilton, E. J. Hanan, W. D. Hansen, S. Hantson, B. J. Harvey, A. Holz, T. Huang, M. D. Hurteau, N. T. Ilangakoon, M. Jennings, C. Jones, A. Klimaszewski-Patterson, L. N. Kobziar, J. Kominoski, B. Kosovic, M. A. Krawchuk, P. Laris, J. Leonard, S . M. Loria-Salazar, M. Lucash, H. Mahmoud, E. Margolis, T. Maxwell, J. L. McCarty, D. B. McWethy, R. S. Meyer, J. R. Miesel, W. K. Moser, R. C. Nagy, D. Niyogi, H. M. Palmer, A. Pellegrini, B. Poulter, K. Robertson, A. V. Rocha, M. Sadegh, F. Santos, F. Scordo, J. O. Sexton, A. S. Sharma, A. M. S. Smith, A. J. Soja, C. Still, T. Swetnam, A. D. Syphard, M. W. Tingley, A. Tohidi, A. T. Trugman, M. Turetsky, J. M. Varner, Y. Wang, T. Whitman, S. Yelenik, X. Zhang

PNAS Nexus, 2022; pgac115

Staff Scientist, AER