Hot Topics and Burning Issues: Fire as a Driver of System Processes Past, Present, and Future
A PhD course being organised jointly by: The C.T. de Wit Graduate School for Production Ecology and Resource Conservation (PE&RC, Wageningen University), the Global Fire Monitoring Centre / Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the United Nations University
30 March 5 April 2008
Fire is one of humankinds earliest tools and a key factor in the functioning of many ecosystems. In addition to local impacts, fire has cumulative and systemic effects at larger scales, such as emissions from land-use fires or wildfires that alter the chemical and radiative properties of the atmosphere. In many regions, fire is an integral part of nature, sustained by human activity and decisions. At the same time, it has an increasingly destructive impact in other regions, threatening human lives, health, property, and security, and sustainability of some ecosystems.
Research on fire has expanded greatly in recent years, supported by the development of new tools for studying fire and its effects. We now have a better understanding of the environmental, physio-chemical, and social dimensions of fire, including as a driver of ecosystem processes that has impacts at a range of spatial and temporal scales. Developments in remote sensing and GIS are providing new insights into the global extent, seasonality and frequency of burning, and the resulting changes in earth-surface properties and their repercussions on the global system. As a result, research output is proliferating and becoming more specialised, making it difficult to provide policy makers, planners and managers with coherent advice on the application, exclusion, or containment of fires in both natural and modified ecosystems.
Accordingly, various challenges lie ahead, such as:
Current frontiers and outstanding research issues to be tackled
Major uncertainties concerning the cumulative impacts of demographic, socio-economic and climatic changes on vegetation and fire regimes, and how might these be addressed
Consequences of replacement of natural fire regimes by human-adjusted fire regimes?
Development of a coherent view of fire considering its multi-facetted nature and the need for both multi- and interdisciplinary approaches in analyzing fire phenomena and problems
Development of an integrated policy framework for fire management
This one-week course introduces participants to current theories, thinking and practice in the field of fire science, and looks ahead to future developments and challenges, particularly in the context of global change. In addition to giving participants an overview of our current state of knowledge, it will introduce them to emerging issues and challenges in policy and management.
The course is meant for PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and staff for whom fire is either a specific focus of research or a factor in their studies, or for those who are looking at the influences and management of natural disturbances in social-ecological processes. The course will consist of lectures, discussion and group-work in which participants in detail focus on specific topics as:
Fire as both driver and disturbance of ecosystem processes
Interactive processes and outcomes: fire, herbivory, and decomposition
Learning to living with fire: practical policies and practices for fire management
Participants will have the opportunity to present and discuss their own work on fire and fire-related issues, and seek advice from the course presenters and others attending the course.
Welcome and introduction
Setting the scene: three narratives on fire (Stephen Pyne, Arizona State University, USA)
Fire and civilization: the history and consequences of human use of fire (Johan Goudsblom, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Global extent of burning: the scale of a problem or a problem of scale? (Chris Justice, University of Maryland, USA)
Moulded by fire: species attributes, population processes, and community structure (William Bond, University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Fire and ecosystem processes: soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics, and soil carbon storage (Mary Scholes, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)
Excursion to sites in The Netherlands and Germany
Fire, atmospheric chemistry and global climate change (Guido van der Werf, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Mediterranean fire ecology and regional climate change (José M. Moreno, University of Castilla-La Mancha, Toledo, Spain)
Integrated management of fire and fire-prone environments: options for global, regional, national and local responses (Johann Georg Goldammer, Global Fire Monitoring Center, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Germany / United Nations University)
Dr. Claudius van de Vijver (Fire Ecologist Wageningen University) Professor Peter Frost (Fire specialist, New Zeeland) Professor Johann Goldammer (Fire Ecology Research Group,/ Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC), Department of Forest and Environmental Science, Freiburg University, Germany/ United Nations University)
Wageningen, The Netherlands
PhD students from PE&RC, Freiburg, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and UNU
All other PhD students, and staff from PE&RC, Freiburg, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and UNU
All other participants
Fee includes course materials, coffee, tea, lunches, field trip and dinners
Cost for Bed & Breakfast is not included, approx. 70 per person per night extra.