Fire is an ancient influence on the Earth system, affecting biogeochemical cycles and ecosystems. Humans have had a profound influence on global fire activity through setting and controlling fires, modifying the flammability of landscapes, and, more recently, changing the climate through the combustion of fossil fuels. We review this web of complex direct and indirect effects of fire on Earth using the framework provided by the emerging discipline of pyrogeography that unites biological, atmospheric, and social perspectives on fire. We describe the transition from fire activity before humans evolved, through the hunter-gatherer and agricultural phases, to the current period in Earth history dominated by industrialization (Anthropocene). We illustrate how pyrogeography provides the necessary framework to understand fire in the Anthropocene, including the management of pyrogenic emissions, protection of human life, conservation of biodiversity, and provision of ecosystem services.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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