Fire in the Environment: The Ecological, Atmospheric, and Climatic Importance of Vegetation Fires
Dahlem Konferenz, Berlin, Germany, 15–20 March 1992 Conveners: Paul J. Crutzen and Johann Georg Goldammer Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Germany
Background, justification and outline of the Dahlem Konferenz
The concentration of several trace gases in the earth’s atmosphere that are important for climate and atmospheric chemistry are strongly increasing due to various human activities. In this context much emphasis has been given to the input of trace gases from industrial and technological activities, leading to emissions of such gases as CO2, CO, NOx and SO2. Because studies of both fire ecology and biomass burning effects in the atmosphere are strongly interdisciplinary, the Dahlem Konferenzprovided an opportunity to develop an objective and comprehensive view of the role of fire in the environment Earth. Among the possible outcomes of the proposed conference was the definition of some major research topics to be addressed by the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry Programme (IGAC) and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP).
The conference aimed at exploring the role of fire in the vegetation of Earth and their impact on the environment – the first global analysis of the role of fire in the Earth System – by addressing in particular:
– Assess current quantitative knowledge on the extent of worldwide biomass burning both in forest and savanna ecosystems, including estimations of trace gas emissions and resulting atmospheric chemical and climatic effects.
– Establish the effects of fires in the major vegetation zones of the globe, with emphasis on primary production, ecosystem dynamics, as well as changing carbon and nutrient storage and fluxes.
– Assess the role of fires in the multiple interactions between climate and ecosystem dynamics, especially in light of anticipated climatic changes and human expansions into tropical and subtropical ecosystems.
– Explore the information content of paleorecords on fires regarding natural climatic biogeographic changes (glacial-interglacial) and human expansions in various regions of the earth.
– Explore the social causes and methods for the use of fires during past and present in various parts of the earth and develop visions of ecologically adequate and socio-economically feasible fire management concepts.
The disciplines involved in the conference included fire ecology, paleoecology, climatology, palynology, sedimentology, soil science, microbiology, biogeochemistry, atmospheric chemistry, remote sensing, anthropology, cultural history, fire history, fire management.