Distinguishing disturbance from perturbations in fire-prone ecosystems.
Fire is a necessary ecosystem process in many biomes and is best viewed as a natural disturbance that is beneficial to ecosystem functioning. However, increasingly, we are seeing human interference in fire regimes that alters the historical range of variability for most fire parameters and results in vegetation shifts. Such perturbations can affect all fire regime parameters. Here, we provide a brief overview of examples where anthropogenically driven changes in fire frequency, fire pattern, fuels consumed and fire intensity constitute perturbations that greatly disrupt natural disturbance cycles and put ecosystems on a different trajectory resulting in type conversion. These changes are not due to fire per se but rather anthropogenic perturbations in the natural disturbance regime.