Climate and human influences on global biomass burning over the past two millennia

J. R. Marlon*, P. J. Bartlein, C. Carcaillet, D. G. Gavin, S. P. Harrison, P. E. Higuera, F. Joos, M. J. Power, I. C. Prentice

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

500 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Large, well-documented wildfires have recently generated worldwide attention, and raised concerns about the impacts of humans and climate change on wildfire regimes. However, comparatively little is known about the patterns and driving forces of global fire activity before the twentieth century. Here we compile sedimentary charcoal records spanning six continents to document trends in both natural and anthropogenic biomass burning for the past two millennia. We find that global biomass burning declined from AD 1 to 1750, before rising sharply between 1750 and 1870. Global burning then declined abruptly after 1870. The early decline in biomass burning occurred in concert with a global cooling trend and despite a rise in the human population. We suggest the subsequent rise was linked to increasing human influences, such as population growth and land-use changes. Our compilation suggests that the final decline occurred despite increasing air temperatures and population. We attribute this reduction in the amount of biomass burned over the past 150 years to the global expansion of intensive grazing, agriculture and fire management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-702
Number of pages6
JournalNature Geoscience
Volume1
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Erratum can be found in Nature Geoscience, Volume 2(4), 307,
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ngeo468

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Climate and human influences on global biomass burning over the past two millennia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this