The role and impact of fire in the Earth system across spatial and temporal scales

This European Geosciences Union (EGU) Symposium session recorded on 6th May 2020 was selected as one of the Editors’ Picks in the latest AGU Advances digest. You can watch it from here (the link takes you to YouTube).


Recent record-breaking wildfires in the Arctic, boreal forests, the Mediterranean and, at the same time, human-driven decreases in burned area in savanna ecosystems show the need of an increased understanding of the drivers and impacts of fire regime changes under ongoing and future land management and climate changes. Fire is part of the Earth system since the evolution of terrestrial biomass 420 million years ago. Despite being a risk to many human societies today, fire has played an important role in human evolution and as a tool and target in land management for millennia.

However, its role in biogeochemical cycles and ecosystem dynamics across various spatiotemporal scales is still poorly constrained, partly due to its complex feedbacks with climate and vegetation. The influence of fire on the atmosphere, vegetation, soil properties, hydrological and biogeochemical cycles and the impact on society require inter- to transdisciplinary research approaches.

This online Union Symposium provides state-of-the-art perspectives on the feedbacks and impacts of fires from the different fields. Leading experts in fire observations and modelling, as well as post-fire impacts on local to global and across temporal scales, provide insights on key processes, drivers and important links of fire in the natural and human-shaped environments.

Session Chair:

Elisabeth Dietze: Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Polar Terrestrial Environmental Systems, Potsdam.


  • Gitta Lasslop: Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Frankfurt.
  • Sander Veraverbeke: Earth Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
  • Alysha Coppola: Earth Sciences, ETH Zürich.
  • Cathelijne Stoof: Soil Geography and Landscape Group, Wageningen Fire Centre, Wageningen University.


  • David Bowman: pyrogeographer, human, physical and biological dimensions of fire. School of Natural Sciences and Fire Center, University of Tasmania.
  • Fay Johnston: epidemiology of air pollution from fires, public and environmental health. Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania.
  • Guido van der Werf: global carbon cycle and climate, global fire emission modelling. Earth Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
  • Cristina Santín: pyrogenic carbon cycle, post-fire impacts on soils and waters. Biosciences, University Swansea.
  • Orsolya Valkó: grassland biodiversity and management, prescribed fires. Centre for Ecological Research, Vácrátót.

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