A comparison of historic and contemporary wildland fire and anthropogenic emissions [abstract]
Document Type: Conference Paper
Author(s): Willard P. Leenhouts
Publication Year: 2000

Cataloging Information

  • agriculture
  • air quality
  • carbon dioxide
  • CO - carbon monoxide
  • cover type conversion
  • fire management
  • fire regimes
  • habitat conversion
  • health factors
  • land use
  • landscape ecology
  • natural resource legislation
  • ozone
  • remote sensing
  • threatened and endangered species (plants)
  • wilderness fire management
  • wildfires
  • wildlife
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: September 17, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 38226
Tall Timbers Record Number: 12789
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Fire File (Fire Conference 2000)
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Wildland fire has been an integral part of the conterminous United States' ecological landscape for millennia. Today wildland fire has to compete with other socially desirable goals for a share of a limited air resource. New ozone, particulate, and visibility protection air-quality rules will further limit air resource allocation opportunities. An understanding of historical and contemporary wildland fire emission contributions will help provide a uniform perspective for unbiased air resource allocation, and may also help us from ever having to ask the question posed by Peter Roussopoulus (1998:308) at the 63rd North American Wildlife and Natural Resource Conference: I've often wondered, could failure to burn based on Clean Air Act regulations be considered a "take" under the Endangered Species Act? Analysis of pre-industrial (~ 200 - 500 yr. BP) and contemporary wildland fire activity, using potential natural vegetation, satellite imagery, and ecological fire regime information, shows a roughly sevenfold decline in criteria pollutants, greenhouse gasses, and light-scattering and visibility-reducing emissions from wildland fire since the pre-industrial era. Land use conversion from agriculture and urban growth accounts for approximately 55 percent of this decline, while ecological fire regime alteration in the remaining non-agricultural and non-urban lands accounts for the remainder. Because fossil fuel and other anthropogenic emissions were increasing during much of the period wildland fire emissions were decreasing, the effects of reduced wildland fire activity on air quality were not well documented. By 1995, 92, 92, 99, 97, 93, 89 percent of all 2, CO, NOX, VOC, PM*0, and

Leenhouts, W. P. 2000. A comparison of historic and contemporary wildland fire and anthropogenic emissions [abstract], Proceedings of Fire Conference 2000: The First National Congress on Fire Ecology, Prevention and Management, 27 November-December 1, 2000, San Diego, CA. [program volume]. University Extension, University of California Davis,Davis, CA.