European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2012

European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2012

22-27 April 2012, Vienna, Austria

Thirteen fire-related sessions were proposed by January 2012
Note: It is likely that some sessions will merge. Please monitor the EGU-2012 website:


Remote Sensing of Fires, Fire Emissions, and Burnt Area

Convener: M. Penning de Vries

Co-Conveners: J.G. Goldammer, L. Clarisse, L. Boschetti

Wildfires have the tendency to occur unexpectedly in remote areas, often on large scales; hence the most suitable way to quantify and characterize their emissions is by remote sensing from airborne and satellite-based platforms. The detection of fires and the assessment of area affected by fires is also best done from a high vantage point. Remote sensing, however, can be affected by complications, such as low spatial sampling, infrequent sampling, or clouds obscuring the view. In many cases, assumptions on surface, particle, or trace gas properties have to be assumed implicitly in the algorithm. This session is dedicated to the remote sensing of fires, their emissions, and burnt area. Contributions about methods and algorithms, results, and model comparisons are welcome.

Session web page:


Environmental, socio-economic and climatic changes in Northern Eurasia and their feedbacks to the Global Earth System

Convener: P. Groisman

Co-Conveners: D. Schepaschenko, D. McCabe, A. Olchev

We invite presentations on the biogeochemical cycles, the surface energy budget and water cycle, and climate and ecosystems interactions in Northern Eurasia (land cover and land use, atmospheric aerosols, soil, fire, and permafrost changes that affect and are being affected by climate and ecosystems changes), ‘human dimension’ that includes, in addition to impact studies of environmental changes, the feedback studies of societal and land use / land management changes on regional and global environment and climate, and tools to address the Northern Eurasia studies. The particular foci at this Session will be (a) presentations by the early career scientists associated with (or are interested to join) the Northern Eurasia Earth Science Partnership Initiative (NEESPI) and (b) presentations on the non-local atmospheric and climate impacts of open fires in Northern Eurasia.

Session web page:


Fire prevention and Fire Danger Rating Systems: New concept and advanced applications

Convener: E. Chuvieco

The focus of this session will be new concepts and advanced tools for fire the forecasting
and prevention systems. New challenges must be faced in the near future, including climate change impacts on risk variability for wildlands and urban areas
The sessions will be bring together scientists and fuel managers operating in the Modelling and Fire Danger Rating Systems

Session web page:


Fire in the Earth System: Impacts and Feedbacks

Convener: K. Thonicke

Fire is an important cross-cutting process in the Earth System. It is a significant determinant of vegetation dynamics, biogeochemical cycling, and atmospheric chemistry at global, regional and landscape scales. It also impacts on nutrient fluxes, surface albedo and cloud development. Earth observation and paleoclimate data plus direct observations have shown that fire regimes (burnt area, fire intensity etc) have dramatically changed in many parts of the world (especially the boreal, humid tropical and Mediterranean biomes), with often negative impacts on vegetation cover, soils, hydrology, carbon sinks and emissions to the atmosphere and so on. In many regions, fire is an important and highly variable source of air pollutant emissions, and it thus constitutes a significant factor, controlling inter-annual variability of the atmospheric composition. Given the multitude of potentially important interactions and feedbacks, it is vital that fire should feature as an integral part of Earth System Models. Work in this area is progressing but is still relatively nascent. It is supported by increasingly available observations of fire impacts, fire activity, burnt areas, and various species in the atmospheric smoke plumes. In recent years, satellite-based instruments measuring these aspects of fire have become increasingly more accurate.

Session web page:


Spatial and temporal patterns of wildfires: models, theory, and reality

Convener: M.G. Pereira 

Co-Conveners: R. Trigo, A. Camia

Wildfires are the result of a large variety and number of interacting components, producing patterns that vary significantly both spatially and temporally.

This session will examine models, theory, empirical studies, new and innovative technologies for wildfire research as well as the relation between atmospheric circulation and wildfires.
Research topics include, but are not limited to:
    • pre-fire planning and risk management;
    • fire detection and monitoring;
    • post-fire evaluation : burned area mapping, fire severity estimation, fire damage at different temporal and spatial scales ( changes in the composition of vegetation, decrease in forests, loss of biodiversity,
       soil degradation, alteration of landscape patterns and ecosystem functioning)
    • post-fire vegetation recovery.
    • remote sensing and innovative technologies for wildfire
    • fire impacts on the environment, in particular on the atmosphere and human health
    • relation between wildfires and social and economical changes
    • influence of weather and climate/climate change on wildfire activity

The conference will bring together wildfire hazard managers, researchers, and theoreticians. Both Oral and Poster presentations are very much encouraged, as we plan to have both lively oral and poster sessions.
Previous Spatial and temporal patterns of wildfires: models, theory, and reality sessions (2008, 2009) resulted in outstanding progress made in fire research, with the publication of two special issues of international journals: Ecological Modeling (2008) and NHESS (2009), JAG (2011).

Selected papers presented at 2011 NH7.2/ESSI19/SSS49 will be considered for publication in a Special Issue of an International Journal.

Session web page:


Fire information needs for global modelling of fire effects

Convener: E. Chuvieco

Fire has important global impacts. Currrently, fire information at global scale has many uncertainties. This session will focus on discussion requirements of fire information for global models, as well as on methods to generate fire relevant data, and to intercompare available products.

Session web page:


Evolution of soil properties in space and time. From prediction to validation.

Convener: P. Pereira

Co-Conveners: J. P. Nunes , K. Schwärzel , S. Carrick,

Soil properties are “dynamic” and evolve in space and time. This spatial and temporal variability depends upon factors such as the geological and geomorphological characteristics, climate, vegetation cover and the degree of human impact.
Often, for a better understanding of soil characteristics spatio-temporal evolution models (geostatistical and others) are used to predict soil properties. Models are a helpful tool to understand the soil spatio-temporal evolution and give a comprehensive view. However, depending on the model used the spatio-temporal predictions could be significantly different, using the same database. Therefore it is important to identify the best predictor and minimize the errors in order to select the best fitted model. Since models are widely used to estimate a large range of soil properties (e.g heavy metals, erosion) they have important impacts in soil management (e.g. remediation, fertilization, erosion mitigation) and related decision making. Therefore it is of fundamental importance to find accurate and validated models. This session is focused on the problematic of model validation and improvement in order to have better estimations. Communications about soil properties modelling and validation from all scales are very welcome.

The papers submitted to this session will be considered for a Focus in J Plant Nutrition and Soil Science (

Session web page:


Charcoal in the environment

Convener: A. C. Scott

Co-Conveners: C. M. Belcher , L. McParland

This session is concerned with both natural and anthropogenic charcoal, including biochar. Studies of charcoal formation, characterization including methodological developments, transport, burial in soils, peats and sediments, and diagenesis are all welcome. We will also consider aspects of the uses of charcoal, both modern and ancient, including wildfire history, as an element of soil and soil processes as well as a mechanism for reducing atmospheric CO2 through burial.

Session web page:


Soil and vegetation recovery after wildfire

Convener: N. Tessler

Co-Conveners: D. Martin, R. Bradstock, C. Chafer

It is now well understood that wildfire can have a significant impact on vegetation communities and soil characteristics in many parts of the world. In particular, soil water repellency can be either induced or destroyed depending on the fire’s intensity, vegetation communities and soil physical properties. Additionally, entire forests can be completely destroyed. Although there have been numerous studies published that have looked at the immediate effects of wildfire on soils and the short-term re-establishment of vegetation communities, the longer term recovery of soils and vegetation are poorly reported. This session seeks to gain a better understanding on the long-term recovery of forest biomass and spatial temporal patterns in soil water repellency as a function of fire severity and post-fire climatic conditions. For example, how long does it take for forest communities to recover to pre-fire biomass equivalents?, how long does it take for soils to recover their pre-fire soil physical properties?, how long does it take for soil water repellency to return to pre-fire conditions? Contributors are invited to present results from studies that span at least several years to explore similarities and differences in the soil-vegetation responses to wildfire events from around the world. We are particularly interested in researchers who are using remote sensing technologies and statistical methodologies to better understand how soils and vegetation communities recover after wildfire.

Session web page:


Soil water repellency from nano-scale to eco-system scale: mechanisms and consequences

Convener: K. G. J. Nierop

Co-Conveners: S. Doerr , S.C. Dekker

Soil water repellency (SWR) is a common property of soils and has been reported from all inhabited continents. It is known that (hydrophobic) organic matter is the main cause of SWR, but there is still a lot to learn about the compounds involved and the causal mechanisms at the molecular (nano) scale. At the plot-scale there may be reduced water infiltration and at the ecosystem-scale spatial feedback mechanisms exist between vegetation and soil water, leading to nonlinear responses such as self-organized vegetation patchiness and regime shifts between ecosystem states.
Important detrimental effects of SWR include limited plant growth, and enhanced erosion, flooding and loss of nutrients and agricultural chemicals. Positive effects are increased aggregate and carbon stability, and reduced evaporation.
This session welcomes anyone interested in new insights on any aspect of SWR ranging from the mechanism underlying SWR to its consequences for the environment.

Session web page:


Understanding Fire Phenomena in the Earth System Using Interdisciplinary Approaches

Convener: C. M. Belcher 

Co-Convener: G. Rein

“Understanding Fire Phenomena in the Earth System Using Interdisciplinary Approaches” aims to bring together all disciplines within fire science toward increasing scientific understanding of the impact of fires on the Earth system. The session will position contributors into 4 key fire research themes: Fire Behaviour, Fire and the Biosphere, Fire and Earth’s Past and Fire and the Earth System. These groupings are designed to enhance interaction between the communities of fire safety engineering, wildfire prediction, fire ecology, palaeofire and Earth system science enabling insight to be gained into the influence of fire on our planet. The session will enhance exchange of ideas and knowledge between fire scientists in order to: 1) Enable integration of cutting edge modern methods from fire safety engineering into earth system studies, 2) Promote the understanding of deep time and long- term environmental changes (million year timescales) into modern fire science studies, 3) Link the black carbon and biogeochemical communities with the other veins of fire research in terms of modern and deep time perspectives. It is hoped that the session will promote, continue and expand the interactions between fire scientists the world over.
The session will include solicited speakers that are leaders of their field for each of the 4 themes and submitted abstracts.

Session web page:


Ash and Biochar in the Environment

Convener: P. Pereira

Co-Conveners: A. Merino, A. C. Bastos, J. Mataix-Solera, M. van der Velde, Dr. V. Čepanko

The occurrence of ash and the use of biochar in the environment has important implications for a range of environmental processes. For instance, on one hand, each year extensive areas all over the world are affected by wildfires and prescribed fire, in which ash is deposited on the soil. On the other hand, the demand for energy is leading to an increased number of biomass power plants, whose ash is increasingly used as a soil amendment. Physicochemical reactions of complex mixtures of mineral and organic compounds (e.g. soil-ash mixtures) can have a range of effects on soils and waters. Importantly, charcoal is relatively recalcitrant and can therefore act as a long-term sink for atmospheric CO2.The complexity of these issues and associated concerns require urgent solutions and knowledge generation about ash and biochar behavior in the environment, especially in a context of climate change. Currently, there is no complete agreement on the terminologies used in the ash and biochar research communities. Due to the obvious overlap and potentials for synergy between ash and biochar research, we consider that it is important to establish clear and unbiased definitions of both concepts in order to strengthen connections and networks among ash and biochar researchers. For example, some researchers consider ash as the inorganic material remaining after combustion while others also include organic material which has not combusted completely. Biochar is the charred residue produced by the pyrolosis of biomass, ideally in the absence of oxygen. Ash and biochar can have a range of effects on soil properties, processes and functions, as well as on the wider environment, including air, surface and groundwater quality. The nature and extent of these effects depend on the type and composition, amount, origin and age of the material, when and where it is released, the subsequent interactions with soil mineral, organic and biological matter, and the way it is influenced by environmental and climatic conditions. This session aims to improve the understanding of the full range of effects of ash and biochar in all environmental components, at different temporal and spatial scales (e.g. from local, to regional and global scales), as well as the underlying factors and mechanisms which control their impacts and dynamics, in terms of behavior, mobility and fate in the environment. Scientific contributions on impacts, environmental behavior, toxicity, mobility, and fate of ash and biochar, in all spheres of the environment, in the form of preliminary results, small and large-scale studies, new methodologies, as well as proposals for future research directions, are welcomed to this session.

We are planning to make a special issue in a international (ISI) journal.


Dr. Frank Verheijen (Department of Environment and Planning & CESAM (Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies,University of Aveiro,Portugal)

    Title: “Biochar effects on soils: overview and knowledge gaps”

Dr. Guillermo Rein (School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, Scotland)

    Title: “From peat to char to ash: smouldering wildfires in peatlands”

Prof. Dr. Yakov Kuzyakov (Department of Soil Science of Temperate Ecosystems. University of Göttingen, Germany)

    Title (provisional): “Decomposition and transformation of 14C labeled Black Carbon”

Session web page:


Where does all the Pyrogenic Organic Matter go? Its Fate in Soils, Water and Sediments

Convener: C. Santin

Co-Conveners: J. M. De la Rosa , S. Doerr

Vegetation fires burn over 3 million km2 per year around the globe. They emit substantial amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere, but they also transform some of the relatively labile carbon (C) stored in biomass to environmentally more stable pyrogenic organic matter (PyOM), also termed black carbon, or biochar if man-made.

Whether produced naturally in fires or industrially, PyOM resistance to degradation is viewed by many as an important mechanism for C sequestration, allowing its accumulation in the environment. This issue, however, is currently subject of considerable debate as available data about PyOM production, accumulation and degradation are often conflicting, preventing robust assessments of C budgets and fluxes at local and global scales.

This interdisciplinary session seeks to stimulate exchange and debate on this fundamental issue by bringing together scientists from the diverse fields of soil, water and sedimentary systems; fire management; PyOM characterization, mobilization, deposition, degradation and preservation; and carbon dynamics in the environment.

Evidence-based, as well as more speculative contributions, dealing with the following aspects are particularly welcome:

    – Quantification and characterization of PyOM in different matrixes (soil, water, sediments, ash, etc.).
    – PyOM in-situ: production, accumulation and degradation rates and mechanims.
    – Movilization within the landscape and off site export.
    – PyOM in hydrological systems (rivers, lakes, oceans).
    – Deposition and preservation: PyOM in sediments and other depositional environments.
    – PyOM and biogeochemical cycles: black carbon, black nitrogen and other nutrient cycles.

Keywords: charcoal, black carbon, wildfire, prescribed fire, biochar, soil, sediment, dissolved organic carbon, organic matter, black nitrogen, ocean, river, ash.

    P. Ascough (UK)
    A. Berhe (USA)
    T. Dittmar (Germany)
    J. Hatten (USA)
    A. Heyvaert (USA)
    H. Knicker (Spain)
    Y. Kuzyakov (Germany, to be confirmed)
    C. Masiello (USA)
    M. Ohlson (Norway)
    C. Preston (Canada)
    C. Rumpel (France)
    M. Schmidt (Switzerland, Keynote lecture)
    K. Van Oost (Belgium)

Apart from the session, we will be organising a casual get-together in one of Vienna’s famous cellar restaurants to allow further discussion over wine, beer and a hearty meal.

Session web page:


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