Ambio

, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp 705–717 | Cite as

Traditional fire-use, landscape transition, and the legacies of social theory past

Review

Abstract

Fire-use and the scale and character of its effects on landscapes remain hotly debated in the paleo- and historical-fire literature. Since the second half of the nineteenth century, anthropology and geography have played important roles in providing theoretical propositions and testable hypotheses for advancing understandings of the ecological role of human–fire-use in landscape histories. This article reviews some of the most salient and persistent theoretical propositions and hypotheses concerning the role of humans in historical fire ecology. The review discusses this history in light of current research agendas, such as those offered by pyrogeography. The review suggests that a more theoretically cognizant historical fire ecology should strive to operationalize transdisciplinary theory capable of addressing the role of human variability in the evolutionary history of landscapes. To facilitate this process, researchers should focus attention on integrating more current human ecology theory into transdisciplinary research agendas.

Keywords

Traditional fire-use Anthropogenic landscape transition Human ecology Paleofire Historical ecology Pyrogeography 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This paper was developed, in part, under STAR Fellowship Assistance Agreement No. FP917243 awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It has not been formally reviewed by EPA. The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author. Partial support was also provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation through an award to the Coweeta LTER Program (DEB-0823293). The author thanks Ted Gragson, Victoria Ramenzoni, Genevieve Holdridge, and two anonymous peer reviewers for their helpful comments.

References

  1. Agee, J.K. 1998. The landscape ecology of western forest fire regimes. Northwest Science 72.Google Scholar
  2. Archibald, S., D.P. Roy, B.W. Van Wilgen, and R.J. Scholes. 2008. What limits fire? An examination of drivers of burnt area in southern Africa. Global Change Biology 10: 1–17.Google Scholar
  3. Archibald, S., A.C. Staver, and S.A. Levin. 2012. Evolution of human-driven fire regimes in Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109: 847–852.Google Scholar
  4. Barlett, H.H. 1955. Fire in relation to primitive agriculture and grazing in the Tropics: An annotated bibliography, vol. 1. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Botanical Gardens.Google Scholar
  5. Bean, W.T., and E.W. Sanderson. 2008. Using a spatially explicit ecological model to test scenarios of fire use by Native Americans: An example from the Harlem Plains, New York, NY. Ecological Modelling 211: 301–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bird, R.B., D.W. Bird, B.F. Codding, C.H. Parker, and J.H. Jones. 2008. The “fire stick farming” hypothesis: Australian Aboriginal foraging strategies, biodiversity, and anthropogenic fire mosaics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105: 14796–14801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bird, R.B., B.F. Codding, P.G. Kauhanen, and D.W. Bird. 2012. Aboriginal hunting buffers climate-driven fire-size variability in Australia’s spinifex grasslands. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109: 10287–10292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Black, B.A., C.M. Ruffner, and M.D. Abrams. 2006. Native American influences on the forest composition of the Allegheny Plateau, northwest Pennsylvania. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 36: 1266–1275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boas, F. 1904. The history of anthropology. Science 20: 513–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bowman, D.M.J.S., J. Balch, P. Artaxo, W.J. Bond, M.A. Cochrane, C.M. D’Antonio, R. DeFries, F.H. Johnston, et al. 2011. The human dimension of fire regimes on Earth. Journal of Biogeography 38: 2223–2236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bowman, D.M.J.S., J.A. O’Brien, and J.G. Goldammer. 2013. Pyrogeography and the global quest for sustainable fire management. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 38: 57–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Christensen, N.L. 1989. Landscape history and ecological change. Journal of Forest History 33: 116–125.Google Scholar
  13. Clark, G. 1947. Forest clearance and prehistoric farming. The Economic History Review 17: 45–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clark, G. 1957. Archaeology and society; reconstructing the prehistoric past. New York: Barnes and Noble Inc.Google Scholar
  15. Clark, G. 1989. The economic approach to prehistory. In Economic prehistory: Papers on archaeology, ed. G. Clark. New York: Cambridge University Press. Original edition, 1953.Google Scholar
  16. Clark, G. 1989. Farmers and forests in Neolithic Europe. In Economic prehistory: Papers on archaeology, ed. G. Clark. New York: Cambridge University Press. Original edition, 1945.Google Scholar
  17. Clark, J.S., and P.D. Royall. 1995. Transformation of a northern hardwood forest by aboriginal (Iroquois) fire: Charcoal evidence from Crawford Lake, Ontario, Canada. The Holocene 5: 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Conklin, H.C. 1954. An ethnoecological approach to shifting agriculture. Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences 17: 133–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Conklin, H.C. 1961. The study of shifting cultivation. Current Anthropology 2: 27–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Coughlan, M.R. 2014. Farmers, flames and forests: Historical ecology of pastoral fire use and landscape change in the French Western Pyrenees 1830–2011. Forest Ecology and Management 312: 55–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Coughlan, M.R., and A.M. Petty. 2012. Linking humans and fire: A proposal for a transdisciplinary fire ecology. International Journal of Wildland Fire 21: 477–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cronon, W. 1983. Changes in the land, Indians, colonists, and the ecology of New England. New York: Hill and Wang.Google Scholar
  23. Daniau, A.-L., F. d’Errico, and M.F. Sánchez Goñi. 2010. Testing the hypothesis of fire use for ecosystem management by Neanderthal and Upper Palaeolithic modern human populations. PLoS One 5: e9157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Delcourt, P.A., and H.R. Delcourt. 1998. The influence of prehistoric human-set fires on oak-chestnut forests in the southern Appalachians. Castanea 63: 337–345.Google Scholar
  25. Denevan, W.M. 1992. The pristine myth: The landscape of the Americas in 1492. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 82: 369–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dove, M.R. 1983. Theories of swidden agriculture, and the political economy of ignorance. Agroforestry Systems 1: 85–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Forman, R.T.T., and M. Godron. 1986. Landscape ecology. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  28. Freilich, M. 1967. Ecology and culture: Environmental determinism and the ecological approach in anthropology. Anthropological Quarterly 40: 26–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gragson, T.L. 1998. Potential versus actual vegetation. In Advances in historical ecology, ed. W. Balee. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Grissino-Mayer, H.D., C.H. Baisan, and T.W. Swetnam. 1994. Fire history in the Pinaleno Mountains of southeastern Arizona: Effects of human-related disturbances. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report 264: 399–407.Google Scholar
  31. Guyette, R.P., R.M. Muzika, and D.C. Dey. 2002. Dynamics of an anthropogenic fire regime. Ecosystems 5: 472–486.Google Scholar
  32. Harris, M. 1968. The rise of anthropological theory; a history of theories of culture. New York: Crowell.Google Scholar
  33. Headland, T.N. 1997. Revisionism in ecological anthropology. Current Anthropology 38: 605–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hough, W. 1926. Fire as an agent in human culture. United States Natural Museum Bulletin 139.Google Scholar
  35. Hough, W. 1932. Fire and human civilization. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 71: 403–406.Google Scholar
  36. Huffman, M.R. 2013. The many elements of traditional fire knowledge: Synthesis, classification, and aids to cross-cultural problem solving in fire-dependent systems around the world. Ecology and Society 18.Google Scholar
  37. Johansson, M.U., M. Fetene, A. Malmer, and A. Granström. 2012. Tending for cattle: Traditional fire management in Ethiopian montane heathlands. Ecology and Society 17.Google Scholar
  38. Johnson, B.E., R.R. Everett, K.G. Lightfoot, and C.J. Stiplen. 2010. Exploring the traditional use of fire in the coastal mountains of Central California. In JFSP Research Project Reports. Paper 74: Joint Fire Science Program.Google Scholar
  39. Jones, R. 1969. Fire-stick farming. Australian Natural History 16: 224–228.Google Scholar
  40. Kelly, R.L. 1995. The foraging spectrum: Diversity in hunter–gatherer lifeways. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  41. Krech, S. 1999. The ecological Indian: Myth and history. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  42. Kroeber, A.L. 1936. Culture element distributions III: Area and climax. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 37: 101–116.Google Scholar
  43. Laris, P. 2002. Burning the seasonal mosaic: Preventative burning strategies in the wooded savanna of southern Mali. Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal 30: 155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Laris, P. 2011. Humanizing savanna biogeography: Linking human practices with ecological patterns in a frequently burned savanna of southern Mali. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 101: 1067–1088.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lewis, H.T. 1972. The role of fire in the domestication of plants and animals in Southwest Asia: A hypothesis. Man 7: 195–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lewis, H.T. 1978. Traditional uses of fire by Indians in northern Alberta. Current Anthropology 19: 401–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Lewis, H.T. 1994. Management fires vs. corrective fires in northern Australia: An analogue for environmental change. Chemosphere 29: 949–963.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lewis, H.T. 2002. An anthropological critique. In Forgotten fires: Native Americans and the transient wilderness, ed. H.T. Lewis, and M.K. Anderson. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  49. Lewis, H.T., and M.K. Anderson. 2002. Introduction. In Forgotten fires: Native Americans and the transient wilderness, ed. H.T. Lewis, and M.K. Anderson. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  50. Lewis, H.T., and L.J. Bean. 1973. Patterns of Indian burning in California: Ecology and ethnohistory. Ramona, CA: Ballena Press.Google Scholar
  51. Lewis, H.T., and T.A. Ferguson. 1988. Yards, corridors and mosaics: How to burn a boreal forest. Human Ecology 16: 57–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Lightfoot, K.G., R.Q. Cuthrell, C.J. Striplen, and M.G. Hylkema. 2013. Rethinking the study of landscape management practices among hunter–gatherers in North America. American Antiquity 78: 285–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Marlon, J.R., P.J. Bartlein, C. Carcaillet, D.G. Gavin, S.P. Harrison, P.E. Higuera, F. Joos, M.J. Power, et al. 2008. Climate and human influences on global biomass burning over the past two millennia. Nature Geoscience 1: 697–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Marsh, G.P. 1965. Man and nature; or physical geography as modified by human action. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. Original edition, 1864.Google Scholar
  55. Mason, O.T. 1894. Technogeography or the relation of the earth to the industries of mankind. American Anthropologist 7: 137–161.Google Scholar
  56. McCune, J.L., M.G. Pellatt, and M. Vellend. 2013. Multidisciplinary synthesis of long-term human–ecosystem interactions: A perspective from the Garry oak ecosystem of British Columbia. Biological Conservation 166: 293–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. McWethy, D.B., P.E. Higuera, C. Whitlock, T.T. Veblen, D.M.J.S. Bowman, G.J. Cary, S.G. Haberle, R.E. Keane, et al. 2013. A conceptual framework for predicting temperate ecosystem sensitivity to human impacts on fire regimes. Global Ecology and Biogeography 22: 900–912.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Morgan, L.H. 1964 Ancient society: Or, researches in the lines of human progress from savagery, through barbarism to civilization. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Original edition, 1877.Google Scholar
  59. Natcher, D.C., M. Calef, O. Huntington, S. Trainor, H.P. Huntington, L. DeWilde, S. Rupp, and F.S. Chapin III. 2007. Factors contributing to the cultural and spatial variability of landscape burning by native peoples of interior Alaska. Ecology & Society 12: 1–12.Google Scholar
  60. O’Connor, C.D., G.M. Garfin, D.A. Falk, and T.W. Swetnam. 2011. Human pyrogeography: A new synergy of fire, climate and people is reshaping ecosystems across the globe. Geography Compass 5: 329–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Pausas, J.G., and J.E. Keeley. 2009. A burning story: The role of fire in the history of life. BioScience 59: 593–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Perry, G.L.W., J.M. Wilmshurst, M.S. McGlone, D.B. McWethy, and C. Whitlock. 2012. Explaining fire-driven landscape transformation during the Initial Burning Period of New Zealand’s prehistory. Global Change Biology 18: 1609–1621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Phillips, J. 1935. Succession, development, the climax, and the complex organism: An analysis of concepts: Part II. Development and the climax. Journal of Ecology 23: 210–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Pyne, S.J. 1982. Fire in America: A cultural history of wildland and rural fire. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  65. Roos, C.I., D.M.J.S. Bowman, J.K. Balch, P. Artaxo, W.J. Bond, M. Cochrane, C.M. D’Antonio, R. DeFries, et al. 2014. Pyrogeography, historical ecology, and the human dimensions of fire regimes. Journal of Biogeography 41: 833–836.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Russell, E.W.B. 1983. Indian-set fires in the forests of the northeastern United States. Ecology 64: 78–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sauer, C.O. 1950. Grassland climax, fire, and man. Journal of Range Management 3: 16–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sauer, C.O. 1956. The agency of man on the earth. In Man’s role in changing the face of the earth, ed. W.L.J. Thomas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  69. Schmerbeck, J., A. Kohli, and K. Seeland. 2015. Ecosystem services and forest fires in India—Context and policy implications from a case study in Andhra Pradesh. Forest Policy and Economics 50: 337–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Seijo, F., and R. Gray. 2012. Pre-industrial anthropogenic fire regimes in transition: The case of Spain and its implications for fire governance in Mediterranean type biomes. Human Ecology Review 19: 58–69.Google Scholar
  71. Simmons, I.G., and J.B. Innes. 1987. Mid-holocene adaptations and later Mesolithic forest disturbance in Northern England. Journal of Archaeological Science 14: 385–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Smith, B.D. 2011. General patterns of niche construction and the management of ‘wild’ plant and animal resources by small-scale pre-industrial societies. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366: 836–848.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Steward, J.H. 1938. Basin-plateau aboriginal sociopolitical groups. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  74. Stewart, O.C. 2002. Forgotten fires: Native Americans and the transient wilderness. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  75. Stewart, O.C. 1951. Burning and natural vegetation in the United States. Geographical Review 41: 317–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Sullivan III, A.P., and K.M. Forste. 2014. Fire-reliant subsistence economies and anthropogenic coniferous ecosystems in the Pre-Columbian northern American Southwest. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany: 1–17.Google Scholar
  77. Sutton, M.Q., and E.N. Anderson. 2013. Introduction to cultural ecology. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  78. Tansley, A.G. 1935. The use and abuse of vegetational concepts and terms. Ecology 16: 284–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Trigger, B.G. 1989. A history of archaeological thought. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Turner, M.G. 1989. Landscape ecology: The effect of pattern on process. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 20: 171–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Vale, T.R. 2002. Fire, native peoples, and the natural landscape. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  82. Valese, E., M. Conedera, A.C. Held, and A. Ascoli. 2014. Fire, humans and landscape in the European Alpine Region during the Holocene. Anthropocene 6: 63–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Whitlock, C., P.E. Higuera, D.B. McWethy, and C.E. Briles. 2010. Paleoecological perspectives on fire ecology: Revisiting the fire-regime concept. Open Ecology Journal 3: 6–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Winterhalder, B.P. 1994. Concepts in historical ecology. In Historical ecology: Culture, knowledge, and changing landscapes, ed. C.L. Crumley. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.Google Scholar
  85. Wissler, C. 1926. The relation of nature to man in aboriginal America. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  86. Wissler, C. 1927. The culture-area concept in social anthropology. American Journal of Sociology 32: 881–891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Coweeta LTERUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations