Third International Symposium on Fire Ecology

Part II: Fire in the Tropical Biota

Freiburg, Germany, 1820 May 1989

The Third Symposium on Fire Ecology in Europe was held at Freiburg University in May 1989. The symposium followed the First Symposium in 1977 and the Second Symposium in 1983, which were also organized by Johann Georg Goldammer, Leader of the Fire Ecology Research Group, and Jean-Pierre Vité, Director of the Institute of Forest Zoology, Faculty of Forest Sciences, Freiburg University. The Symposium was sponsored by the Volkswagen Foundation.

Note: In 1979, the Fire Ecology Research Group was established at Freiburg University. In 1990, the Fire Ecology Research Group transited to the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Sciences, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, as a joint venture with Freiburg University. In 1998, the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) was formally established at the Fire Ecology Research Group.

Part I of the Symposium (European sessions) focused on fire impacts on soil and site and the fire effects on Mediterranean and ecosystems in adjoining regions of the temperate-boreal zones.

Part II of the Symposium aimed to fill a gap of knowledge and consciousness about the role of fire in tropical and subtropical biotas. Tropical and subtropical forests and other lands are increasingly affected by wildfires. Approximately 600 million hectares or more of tropical and subtropical savannas, bushland and grasslands are affected by fire each year. In addition, the conversion and clearing of tropical closed forest by fire is accelerating continuously and exceeds considerably the deforestation rates assessed in the early 1980s. The local and regional impact of the wildfires within the tropics and subtropics results in many cases in severe forest degradation, overall loss of species, soil denudation and erosion. The most sensitive watersheds within the tropics and in the vicinity of the tropics (i.e. the Himalayas) become increasingly influenced by regular fire occurrence causing largescale deforestation in the uplands and flooding and siltation in the lowlands. Plantations as well as other valuable resources at the wildland/residential interface are subjected to a high wildfire risk.

In addition to deforestation in the lower latitudes, the burning of tropical and subtropical ecosystems becomes a source of smoke particles, CO2 and other trace gases impacting atmospheric stability and global climatic change.

Besides the scientific results of the Symposium – the first time in history that the problems of fires in the tropical biota have been addressed at global scale – the Symposium released the Freiburg Declaration on Tropical Fires – addressed to policy and decision makers globally.

GFMC Contributions


Photographic Impressions

A few photographs were taken at the symposium – unfortunately no complete group photo.

In his initial remarks, Dieter Mueller-Dombois (USA) presenting a recently published journal article entitled “What on Earth are we doing?” He stressed the problems to be encountered by increasing deforestation, forest degradation and fire in the tropics.

In the opening statement, Johann Georg Goldammer (Germany) announced the First International Wildland Fire Conference , which followed the Freiburg Symposium two months later (Boston, USA, 23-26 July 1989). He stressed the need to bring the scientific knowledge of fire ecology, atmospheric sciences and climatology to the community of decision makers and practitioners by creating a thematic science-policy interface.

Philip Fearnside
(Brazil / USA) presenting the latest satellite imageries of deforestation and fire use in Amazonia.
(to follow)

Jean-Paul Malingreau presented satellite imagery from Indonesia (AVHRR image of the island of Borneo, Indonesia / Malaysia Brunei) of April 1983. Active fires (red dots) are visible in North Borneo. The still burning hinterland peat swamp of the Mahakam River (East Kalimantan) is seen as a warm area.

This thermal AVHRR image of August 1985 shows active fires (white dots) in and around the main colonization area of the State of Rondônia (Brazil). Most of the fires are seen to be closely associated with the agricultural land clearing / settlement pattern (light areas).

Samuel Peñafiel (The Philippines), Maman Sutisna (Indonesia) and Wilhelm Schüle (Germany) exchanging.

The audience: From left to right: Stephen J. Pyne (USA), Darold Ward (USA), Johann Georg Goldammer (Germany) and Alberto Setzer (Brazil).

From left to right: Dieter Mueller-Dombois (USA) and Brian van Wilgen (South Africa).

Surprise: Students of the Faculty of Forest Sciences left a jokeon the chalkboard.

Smokey Bear critically watching the Symposium participants.

Launch of IJWF and IAWF

The Symposium offered an opportunity to discuss and further develop launching the International Journal of Wildland Fire (IJWF) and the International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF). Soon after the Symposium the Editorial Team of IJWF was formed and a first trial issue designed:

Andrea L. (Andy) Koonce (USA) and Johann Georg Goldammer (Germany) presenting the vision and concept of IJWF and IAWF.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien