In the history of land-use in Eurasia fire has been an important element in forestry, agriculture and pastoralism. The use of fire has contributed to shape landscape patterns of high ecological and cultural diversity, e.g. heathlands, open grasslands, meadows, and swidden (shifting) agriculture sites. In the Nordic countries historic natural fires caused by lightning and burning practises have also significantly influenced the composition and structure of forest ecosystems.
The rapid socio-economic changes in the past four decades led also to a change of land-use systems and landscape patterns, resulting in elimination of traditional burning practises. New air quality standards and the generally prevailing opinion by the government administrations that fire would damage ecosystem stability and biodiversity, led to imposing of fire bans in most European countries.
It is now becoming evident that the abandonment of traditional land-use methods have resulted in the elimination of disturbances, which have characteristically shaped many valuable landscape types and ecosystems. Changing paradigms in ecology and nature conservation currently lead to the reconsideration of fire-exclusion policies in certain sectors of nature conservation, forestry and landscape management.