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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Bill Leenhouts
Publication Date: 1998

ANNOTATION: Wildland fire has been an integral part of the landscape of the conterminous United States for millennia. Analysis of contemporary and pre-industrial (~ 200 - 500 yr BP) conditions, using potential natural vegetation, satellite imagery, and ecological fire regime information, shows that wildland fires burned 35 - 86 x 106 ha (megahectares) annually in the pre-industrial era, consuming 530 - 1230 teragram (Tg) of biomass. At present, in comparison, 5 - 7 Mha/yr burn, consuming 77 - 189 Tg of biomass annually. If historic fire regimes were restored to non-urban and non-agricultural lands today, 18 - 43 Mha would burn annually, consuming 285 - 602 Tg of biomass. For each era, 11 biomass (wildland and agricultural) burning emissions were estimated, and differences of similar magnitude were found. Estimates of contemporary fossil fuel emissions are also provided for comparison. Atmospheric, climatic, social, and ecological system effects from the decrease in area burned, biomass consumed, and emissions produced are discussed.

Citation: Leenhouts, Bill. 1998. Assessment of Biomass Burning in the Conterminous United States. Conservation Ecology [online] 2(1).

Cataloging Information

Alaska    California    Eastern    Great Basin    Hawaii    Northern Rockies    Northwest    Rocky Mountain    Southern    Southwest    National
Partner Sites:
  • Adenostoma
  • agriculture
  • air quality
  • Appalachian Mountains
  • biomass
  • biomass burning
  • carbon dioxide
  • chaparral
  • climate change
  • CO - carbon monoxide
  • coastal plain
  • coniferous forests
  • cropland fires
  • croplands
  • deserts
  • ecology
  • ecotones
  • emission estimates
  • everglades
  • fire danger rating
  • fire frequency
  • fire regimes
  • fire regimes
  • fuel loading
  • fuel models
  • grasslands
  • grazing
  • habitat types
  • Juniperus
  • land use
  • landscape ecology
  • logging
  • pine forests
  • pine hardwood forests
  • Pinus clausa
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • pocosins
  • prairie
  • pre-industrial conditions
  • presettlement fires
  • Prosopis
  • Pseudotsuga menziesii
  • Quercus
  • remote sensing
  • rural communities
  • savannas
  • scrub
  • shrub fuels
  • shrublands
  • wilderness areas
  • wilderness fire management
  • wildfires
  • wildlife habitat management
Tall Timbers Record Number: 17022Location Status: In-fileCall Number: Fire FileAbstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 7698

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by Tall Timbers 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 Tall Timbers.