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Revista Chapingo serie ciencias forestales y del ambiente

versão On-line ISSN 2007-4018versão impressa ISSN 2007-3828

Rev. Chapingo ser. cienc. for. ambient vol.22 no.1 Chapingo Jan./Abr. 2016 



Dante Arturo Rodríguez Trejo1 

1División de Ciencias Forestales, Universidad Autónoma Chapingo, Chapingo, Edo. de México, C.P. 56230 México

For several years now, this journal has kindly invited me to write an editorial in each issue, a task that I have viewed as a great distinction and that I have undertaken with particular pride. Since then I have had the opportunity to witness the growth and evolution of this valuable publication, as was the case when it earned inclusion in Thompson Reuters' JCR and the Conacyt index of journals of excellence. Today the journal, in its constant development, goes one step further: the move to the scientific editorial, an editorial that will focus on a particular theme each issue and that will be written by a specialist.

Today I bid farewell as the one responsible for the editorial, but I also have the honor of penning the first scientific editorial for our publication, and I have been asked that it be on forest fires, which is presented below. Prior to that, however, I would like to offer my many thanks for your kind attention over all these years. I wish all the users, authors, referees, editors, translators, graphic designers, managers and other members of this great family that is the Revista Chapingo, Serie Ciencias Forestales y del Ambiente all the best in giving even greater life to this vigorous publication.

Global perspectives on forest fires

In several parts of the world in recent years, new technologies have been summoned to join the fight against wildfires, including satellites, drones, innovative hand tools, new specialized ground and air vehicles, models for estimating fire behavior, including those based on fluid dynamics, and more computer programs for estimating fire behavior or for managing human and material resources during combat, along with increasingly diversified wildfire training programs, among other advances. Monitoring fire behavior remains a valuable tool, as exemplified by the work of Flores, Xelhuantzi, and Durán (2010).

This trend has historically existed in all ages. Human beings are responsive to nature, so a season with a high incidence of fires is followed by the injection of resources, equipment, training, agreements between government agencies and between countries, and technological and scientific research, all aimed at solving this problem. But historically, wildfire problems continue to occur. Large fires in the southeastern United States, Mexico and Central America, and Indonesia in the late 1990s make it clear. The twenty-first century has already seen, among other events, the Yarnel Hill tragedy in Arizona, which killed 19 elite forest fire fighters (Pyne, 2015), a fire in Spain which killed five fire behavior analysts, and a slew of large fires in Australia, Portugal, Canada, the United States and Greece, to mention but a few. In Greece, a passenger bus was caught by a catastrophic fire that claimed the lives of the passengers.

Ever since beginning more than 400 million years ago, forest fires have gone through highs and lows in the geological history of the Earth. They have been regulated in different eras by forest fuels, oxygen concentration and climate (Scott, Bowman, Bond, Pyne, & Alexander, 2014). But today an important factor is the human being, to the point where over 90 % of fires on the planet are caused by our species.

Campfires influenced the evolution of human intelligence and helped prolong the longevity of human beings. It constituted a powerful tool in managing the land and this trend continues today, partly to good use, but in many cases with poor employment it produces unwanted fires, along with other sources - some accidental, some due to negligence, and some intentional.

Globally it is estimated that 25 % of the land area with vegetation has intact fire regimes, but 53 % is with degraded or very degraded regimes. More than 53 % of the planet's ecoregions are dependent on fire, 22 % are sensitive and 15 % are independent. The evaluation of the remaining 10 % is pending (Shlisky et al., 2007).

One approach that some countries have taken or have begun to take is that of integrated fire management. Although defined in various ways, in developing countries it is identified as the fusion between silvicultural and ecological fire management, as well as its suitable management by rural communities, in addition to prevention and combat. The last of these will always be essential, but it has not been enough to solve the problem of forest fires (Rodríguez, 2001, 2015).

The ideal is to reduce unwanted wildfires with more silvicultural and ecological fire management use, coupled with goals related to restoration (including fire regimes), conservation, forestry and other aspects; such a strategy will be useful for peasant farmers and support the prevention and fighting of unwanted fires.

To achieve that goal requires more information on fire ecology. Currently, fewer than ten countries have a significant level of knowledge on the subject. All other countries have not formally opted to see the other side of fire and basically continue to follow the approach of preventing and combating forest fires.

Only about a dozen countries have formal information on the traditional use of fire by rural communities. Therefore, there is a clear need for increased research in such areas.

However, having such research is not a panacea. For example, according to Pyne (2015), the United States, the country with the most science, technology and resources in the field of forest fires, including fire ecology, has applied fire for decades to many of its ecosystems and it would appear that the ecological responses have not always been what was expected.

Faced with a global scenario of poverty and global climate change, more fires that are also more complex in nature are expected in the future. Firefighting technology must continue to evolve, but it will also be of utmost important to achieve fire integration in those ecosystems that require it, with the traditional use of fire and with fire prevention and combat of unwanted fires, all to form base fire regimes, which combine in varying degrees natural fire with anthropogenic fire to allow the maintenance of forest ecosystems, the production of goods and services and the reduction in unwanted fires. Obviously in countries like Mexico, with great biodiversity and a wealth of ethnicities and cultures, integrated fire management can take on different forms even in the same region. The strengthening of the positive effects of fire (such as fuel reduction and the promotion of regeneration and diversity), the minimizing of the negative impacts (like emissions and erosion) and developing an adaptive management scheme should be pursued (Rodríguez, 2001).

Apparently it is best to start with the philosophy of going from each particular case to the general picture, without losing sight of the landscape and regional levels, to achieve this integration for the benefit of forest ecosystems and the people living in them, as well as society in general. Something that should made be very clear is that forest fires cannot be eliminated; instead, we must live with them. In some countries, government (fire management and ecosystem conservation areas), universities and non-governmental organizations have already begun to follow this path in search of the new fire; just as the people of Mesoamerica believed the universe would be renewed, in our time we must renew our relationship with fire.


Flores,G. J. G., Xelhuantzi, C. J., & Durán, C. Á. A. (2010). Monitoreo del comportamiento del fuego en una quema controlada en un rodal de pino-encino. Revista Chapingo Serie Ciencias Forestales y del Ambiente, 16(1), 49-59. doi: 10.5154/r.rchscfa.2009.05.017 [ Links ]

Pyne, S. J. (2015). Between two fires. A fire history of contemporary America USA: The University of Arizona Press. [ Links ]

Rodríguez T., D. A. (2001). Ecología del fuego en el ecosistema de Pinus hartwegii Lindl. Revista Chapingo Serie Ciencias Forestales y del Ambiente, 7(2), 145-151. Obtenido de ]

Rodríguez T., D. A. (2015). Incendios de vegetación. Su ecología, manejo e historia. México: C. P., UACH, USDA FS, USAID, Gobierno del estado de Tabasco, FMCN, PNPIF, AMPF, ANCF, PNIP, SEMARNAT, CONAFOR, CONANP. [ Links ]

Scott, A. C., Bowman, D. M. J. S., Bond, W. J., Pyne, S. J., & Alexander, M. E. (2014). Fire on Earth. An introduction. USA: Wiley Blackwell. [ Links ]

Shlisky, A.,Waugh,P., González, M., Manta, M., Santoso, H., Alvarado, E., Fulks, W. (2007). El fuego, los ecosistemas y la gente: Amenazas y estrategias para la conservación global de la biodiversidad. Arlington, TX, USA: The Nature Conservancy. [ Links ]

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