Thursday, 20 November 2003: 3:30 PM
Understanding Tropical Fire Regimes: Research Needs, Management Implications
Fire is both common and widespread in modern tropical landscapes, and many tropical vegetation types and habitats appear to have been affected by fire for millennia. Tropical fires can be studied from a diversity of perspectives, ranging from fire meteorology to the cultural and political dynamics of fire management. Both the history and consequences of tropical fires are attracting increasing attention. What is presently known about past fire regimes in tropical areas, and what opportunities exist to improve understanding? Where are the major gaps in knowledge of the ecological, environmental, and atmospheric consequences of tropical fires? What is the nature of the long-term interaction between fire, climate, and human activity in the tropics, and what does the future hold? How might global-scale changes in climate, population, and land use affect tropical fire regimes, and how might changes in tropical fire regimes in turn affect climate? How can or should tropical land managers use information on past and present tropical fire regimes in developing fire management plans, and how can "extratropical" researchers and land managers best support their efforts?
In this closing presentation on tropical fires, I will offer some answers and insights on the questions above, gleaned from the wide-ranging presentations of this Congress, and from my own work on long-term fire history and fire ecology in selected highland and lowland ecosystems in Central and South America and the Caribbean. In doing so, my goals are to challenge attendees to recognize and address both the need for increased research on tropical fire regimes and the need for increased attention to the management applications and implications of our research.