Fire in the Future: Interactions with Ecosystems and Society (FURNACES)

FURNACES_trim.png Fire is an important feature of the ecology and diversity of terrestrial ecosystems and has accompanied humans on evolutionary time-scale. Humans use fire for land conversion and land management but also fight forest fires and modify the landscape in ways that reduce fire spread. These actions result in complex relationships between humans and burned area. These relationships vary greatly among cultures, livelihoods, and economic status. Moreover, fires impact society and economy: they aggravate air quality, cause loss of property and lives, and determine the functions and economic values of ecosystems. Previous research shows that climate warming can cause more and more severe fires. However, humans and changing socioeconomic conditions can compensate or aggravate these effects. Humans have until now been neglected in most studies and are not well represented in vegetation and climate models. Vegetation-fire models can account for changes in vegetation, climate, and human factors to project fire but the relationships are still highly uncertain. A number of recent studies have identified the role of humans as a main factor of uncertainty for fire projections.
This project aims to improve the understanding of how humans influence fire occurrence and how fire occurrence and effects on ecosystems and society will change over the 21st century. We will quantify the associated uncertainty by creating a novel database on human-fire relationships, by exploring state-of-the-art satellite observations and using process-based global vegetation-fire models. We propose to address these questions with an interdisciplinary approach. Funded by DFG and FWF, researchers from Germany and Austria join their expertise in fire ecology, social ecology, remote sensing, data science, and vegetation modelling to improve the understanding of local to global relationships between humans, climate, vegetation, and fire.

The project aims to provide:
(1) a database on human fire use based on a meta-study of available literature and case studies,
(2) plausible model formulations for the human influence on fires for global fire models,
(3) an ensemble of model projections quantifying the uncertainty of future fire occurrence and the impact of fire on ecosystems,
(4) a quantification of how these changes in fire occurrence and impacts on ecosystems will affect society,
(5) a synthesis on the gained knowledge and scenarios of future fire use.
These results are valuable for future planning of land management on regional scale but also provides a better basis to account for fire in future climate projections using Earth system models.


Project duration:

  • December 2019 – November 2022


  • Gathering and processing of observational datasets
  • Proposing and testing of alternative model structures for human-fire relations
  • Development of new approaches to evaluate modelled fire activity
  • Residual analysis of simulated fire activity


CLIMERS staff involved:

Project URL: