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Fire regime: history and definition of a key concept in disturbance ecology



“Fire regime” has become, in recent decades, a key concept in many scientific domains. In spite of its wide spread use, the concept still lacks a clear and wide established definition. Many believe that it was first discussed in a famous report on national park management in the United States, and that it may be simply defined as a selection of a few measurable parameters that summarize the fire occurrence patterns in an area. This view has been uncritically perpetuated in the scientific community in the last decades. In this paper we attempt a historical reconstruction of the origin, the evolution and the current meaning of “fire regime” as a concept. Its roots go back to the 19th century in France and to the first half of the 20th century in French African colonies. The “fire regime” concept took time to evolve and pass from French into English usage and thus to the whole scientific community. This coincided with a paradigm shift in the early 1960s in the United States, where a favourable cultural, social and scientific climate led to the natural role of fires as a major disturbance in ecosystem dynamics becoming fully acknowledged. Today the concept of “fire regime” refers to a collection of several fire-related parameters that may be organized, assembled and used in different ways according to the needs of the users. A structure for the most relevant categories of parameters is proposed, aiming to contribute to a unified concept of “fire regime” that can reconcile the physical nature of fire with the socio-ecological context within which it occurs.



Theory in BiosciencesSpringer Journals

Published: Jun 1, 2010

DOI: 10.1007/s12064-010-0082-z

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