In large parts of Eurasia the use of fire and other disturbances have contributed to shape landscape patterns of high ecological and cultural diversity and value, e.g. heathlands, open grasslands, meadows, and swidden (shifting) agriculture sites, as well as open and stress-resilient forest ecosystems. The rapid socio-economic changes in the past four decades and the recently increasing trend of rural exodus all over Eurasia, however, have resulted in abandonment of traditional land-use methods. With the elimination of these disturbances by cultivation, including traditional burning practices, large areas of Europe are converting to fallow lands, a process that is associated with ecological succession towards brush cover and forest, and an overall loss of open habitats. Besides the loss of valuable biodiversity the abandoned lands constitute an increase of wildfire hazard a trend that is revealed by a growing number of extremely severe fire disasters. Similarly, the exclusion of fire in natural ecosystems such as northern boreal and sub-boreal coniferous forests in Eurasia has resulted in changing vegetation composition and an increase of wildfire hazard, notably in Central-Eastern Eurasia. Changing paradigms in ecology and nature conservation currently have led to reconsideration of fire-exclusion policies in certain sectors of land / landscape management, nature conservation and forestry.
The symposium is an activity of the Eurasian Fire in Nature Conservation Network (EFNCN), which has been founded in 2000. EFNCN is facilitated by the Fire Ecology Research Group / Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC), Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, c/o Freiburg University / United Nations University, Freiburg, Germany. The Symposium will be organized in close association with the EU FIRE PARADOX project, the EU LIFE Project Rohrhardsberg, Obere Elz und Wilde Gutach, the EU Leonardo da Vinci EuroFire project, the UNECE Team of Specialists on Forest Fire, the UNISDR Regional Baltic Wildland Fire Network and the United Nations University (UNU).