Taking Fire Science and Practice to the Next Level: Report from the PAGES Global Paleofire Working Group Workshop 2017 in Montreal, Canada – Paleofire Knowledge for Current and Future Ecosystem Management

Lay summary authored by Katarzyna Marcisz. Their full paper can be read in Open Quaternary: http://doi.org/10.5334/oq.44

In the recent years news agencies inform about catastrophic wildfires taking place in forests in different areas worldwide. Canada (Fort McMurray 2016), Chile (Mediterranean Central Chile 2017), Portugal (Algarve 2018), the USA (California 2018), Russia (Siberia 2018) – the list is getting longer and longer every summer. Wildfires are a threat to peoples’ life and health due to smoke and dust production, burning houses or entire cities, and very severe fire can cause irreversible damage to ecosystems. Due to global warming such fires may be more frequent in the future, therefore, ecosystem managers, practitioners and policymakers (EMPPs) should take fire history, ecosystem vulnerability to fire and future risks into account when preparing forest management plans. Unfortunately, this is rare that EMPPs are contacting “Paleofire” specialists, discussing past fire data and/or ordering historical fire expertize for a given region.

To discuss how the communication between paleofire scientists and EMPPs can be improved, PAGES Global Paleofire Working group (http://pastglobalchanges.org/ini/wg/gpwg2/intro; www.paleofire.org) organized a workshop that gathered 24 scientists working on fire history, fire ecology, past fire practices fire and fire-climate relationships from boreal, temperate, Mediterranean and tropical ecosystems. The meeting took place at the Station Biologique des Laurentides, Université de Montréal and was led by Olivier Blarquez (Université de Montréal) and Pierre Grondin (Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs, Government of Quebec).

blog photo

Workshop excursion to Lac Geai and an Oakwood (Quercus rubra) at its northern range limit triggered lively discussions about fires as a disturbance and nature conservation. We also sampled surface lake sediments and looked at the soil. You can see charred wood found in the soil during the excursion. (Photos: Katarzyna Marcisz)

During the workshop, we discussed how the cooperation between scientists and EMPPs looks like nowadays in different countries based on the questionnaires that participants discussed with EMPPs from their home countries. Throughout these discussions we identified four challenges that we need to overcome to improve this cooperation. We realized (1) little awareness among EMPPs about what past environment sciences are, what methods and approaches are used in paleofire research in particular, and how long-term data (covering past fire activity in the past few millennia) can be helpful when preparing conservation plans; (2) that the professional language used by EMPPs is different than the one used by researchers, and that some expressions used by EMPPs carry different meaning for scientists; (3) that most of the data produced by scientists are either not available for EMPPs, or they are expressed in wrong format (e.g. excel table with data instead of graphs; raw data vs. interpreted); and that (4) costly “Paleo” expertise is often limited by the small available budget.

Therefore, in the paper we propose a scheme of cooperation between both groups that should improve their communication. We also want to encourage “Paleo” scientists to open up for the cooperation with EMPPs in the future. Decadal to millennial data carry important information about the evolution of ecosystems and this information is important for the nature conservation and management plans in the warmer world.

Read the full paper here:

Marcisz, K., Vannière, B., Blarquez, O. and GPWG2, T., 2018. Taking Fire Science and Practice to the Next Level: Report from the PAGES Global Paleofire Working Group Workshop 2017 in Montreal, Canada – Paleofire Knowledge for Current and Future Ecosystem Management. Open Quaternary, 4(1), p.7. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/oq.44

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