Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Abrupt climate-independent fire regime changes.

Abstract

Wildfires have played a determining role in distribution, composition and structure of many ecosystems worldwide and climatic changes are widely considered to be a major driver of future fire regime changes. However, forecasting future climatic change induced impacts on fire regimes will require a clearer understanding of other drivers of abrupt fire regime changes. Here, we focus on evidence from different environmental and temporal settings of fire regimes changes that are not directly attributed to climatic changes. We review key cases of these abrupt fire regime changes at different spatial and temporal scales, including those directly driven (i) by fauna, (ii) by invasive plant species, and (iii) by socio-economic and policy changes. All these drivers might generate non-linear effects of landscape changes in fuel structure; that is, they generate fuel changes that can cross thresholds of landscape continuity, and thus drastically change fire activity. Although climatic changes might contribute to some of these changes, there are also many instances that are not primarily linked to climatic shifts. Understanding the mechanism driving fire regime changes should contribute to our ability to better assess future fire regimes.