Global Paleofire Working Group 2

Summary

The Global Paleofire Working Group (GPWG) develops and analyses fire history records using the Global Charcoal Database (GCD) in order to understand what controls fire and its impacts on a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. We employ diverse data sources, an open-access database, statistical tools, and models.
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Twitter: https://twitter.com/PaleofireWG

Goals

- Understand how and why fire history has varied in different biomes since the last glacial period.
- Identify best practices for using fire history data to inform modern risk assessment and management practices.
- Use data and models to understand how changing disturbance regimes alter species composition and distributions under changing climate and land-use conditions.
- Integrate diverse datasets and models to understand how human activities and climate changes shape and respond to changing fire patterns.

Key findings

- Fire has generally increased as global temperatures have warmed since the Last Glacial period, especially in temperate latitudes.
- The spatial expression of burning has become much more variable throughout the Holocene, as humans increasingly altered fire regimes.
- A key challenge for scientists using sediment-based fire-history reconstructions is to conduct more calibration studies, so that fire history changes can be better quantified.

Leaders

Jennifer Marlon (Yale University, USA, co-Chair, coordinator of Crosscutting Initiative 3)
Boris Vannière (CNRS, France, Chair, coordinator of Crosscutting Initiative 2)

Timeline

Launch
 
 
Synthesis
 
 
 
 
2016
  2017
  2018
  2019

Highlights

Kehrwald NM, Aleman J, Coughlan M, Courtney-Mustaphi C, Githumbi E, Magi B, Marlon J & Power MJ (2016) One thousand years of fires: Integrating proxy and model data, Frontiers of Biogeography 8 (1) (link)
 
Marlon JR, Kelly R, Daniau A-L, Vannière B, Power MJ, Bartlein P, Higuera P, Blarquez O, Brewer S, Brücher T, Feurdean A, Gil Romera G, Iglesias V, Maezumi SY, Magi B, Courtney Mustaphi CJ & Zhihai T (2016) Reconstructions of biomass burning from sediment-charcoal records to improve data–model comparisons , Biogeosciences 13 (11): 3225-3244, DOI:10.5194/bg-13-3225-2016 (link)
 

In the past decade, the Global Paleofire Working Group (GPWG) developed and analyzed fire history records using the Global Charcoal Database (GCD, see below), which advanced our understanding of the controls and impacts of fire in the Earth system on a wide range of spatial and temporal scales.

Late Quaternary trends in fire have primarily been attributed to natural climate variability and vegetation changes associated with changes in net primary productivity, but the contribution of different aspects of climate and vegetation change, especially at regional scales and on multi-decadal to centennial time scales, remains poorly understood, as do the varied roles of humans in shaping past fire regimes.

Phase 2 of the GPWG (GPWG2) will shift this focus to understanding the linkages between fires, climate-driven fuel changes, traditional human land uses, modern landscape management, and biodiversity conservation.

We will advance the GPWG2 mission using crowd-sourced data collection, analysis with open-source tools, hypothesis testing, and "natural" and model experiments. We will engage paleofire experts, fire modelers, and fire practitioners through projects and workshops to identify key questions and approaches that prioritize science in support of sustainability, and that can provide evidence and insights for understanding and managing fire under rapidly changing global conditions.

The Science outcomes emerging from the GPWG include the creation of the public-access Global Charcoal Database and an international research community with multiple-authored papers describing observed spatiotemporal changes in fire at global and regional scales (e.g. time series and maps).

To find out more, go to the GPWG2 website here.

gpwg2 fire1

Figure 1: Forest burning in Guatemala, 2005, to open land for cattle. Photo credit: Boris Vannière.

The Global Charcoal Database

The aim of the Global Charcoal Database (GCD) provides the scientific community with a global paleofire dataset for research and archiving sedimentary records of fire. Global syntheses have enabled the examination of broad-scale patterns in palaeofire activity, created a framework for exploring the linkages among fire, climate and vegetation at centennial-to-multi-millennial time scales and allows evaluation of fire model simulations at regional to global scales.

Get GPWG updates

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Follow the group on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PaleofireWG