The past two years have been the worst fire years on record across the west coast of North America, with whole communities being engulfed in flames and smoke enveloping major cities for weeks. But as the airways fill once again with stories of valiant fire-fighters and people who’ve lost their homes, we answer some burning questions that seem to always fly under the radar. For example:
How long have fires been burning on this planet?
Have our ecologies always been adapted to fire?
What role did indigenous peoples play in lighting fires in the past?
And how can we return prescribed burns to sensitive ecosystems?
To answer these questions, we talk to regional experts, including internationally renowned ethnobotanist Dr. Nancy Turner, in this first part of our two-part series, On Fire.
This episode features, in order of appearance: Dr. Marlow Pellatt, Ecosystem Scientist with Parks Canada; Dr. Nancy Turner, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria; Augie Sylvester, Penelakut elder and cultural expert; and Cease Wyss, Indigenous plant diva.
Special thanks to Dr. Natalie Ban, Sarah Friesen, Deblekah Guin, Access to Media Education Society, the Galiano Conservancy Association, Ilana Fonariov, Alex Dundas, Kirsty Johnstone Munroe Cameron, and David Skulski.
This season of Future Ecologies is supported in part by the Vancouver Foundation. Learn more at https://vancouverfoundationsmallarts.ca/.
A lot of research goes into each episode of Future Ecologies, including great journalism from a variety of media outlets, and we like to cite our sources:
Altangerel, K., and C. A. Kull. (2013). The prescribed burning debate in Australia: conflicts and compatibilities. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 56(1): 103-120.
Boer, M. M., Sadler, R. J., Wittkuhn, R. S., McCaw, L, and P. F. Grierson. (2009). Long-term impacts of prescribed burning on regional extent and incidence of wildfires—Evidence from 50 years of active fire management in SW Australian forests. Forest Ecology and Management 259(1): 132-142.
Diver, S. (2016). Co-management as a Catalyst: Pathways to Post-colonial Forestry in the Klamath Basin, California. Human Ecology 44: 533-546.
Freeman, J., Kobziar, L., Rose, E. W., and W. Cropper. (2017). A critique of the historical-fire-regime concept in conservation. Conservation Biology 31(5): 976-985.
Gill, J. L., Williams, J. W., Jackson, S. T., Lininger, K. B., and G. S. Robinson. (2009). Pleistocene megafaunal collapse, novel plant communities, and enhanced fire regimes in North America. Science 326: 1100-1103.
Johnson, C. N. (2009). Ecological consequences of Late Quaternary extinctions of megafauna. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biology 276: 2509-2519.
Long, J. W., Goode, R. W., Gutteriez, R. J., Lackey, J. L., and M. K. Anderson. (2017). Managing California Black Oak for Tribal Ecocultural Restoration. Journal of Forestry 115(5): 426-434.
Night, R., and S. A. Diemont. (2013). The Maya Milpa: Fire and the Legacy of Living Soil. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 11:e45-e54.
Pastro, L. A., Dickman, C. R., and M. Letnic. (2011). Burning for Biodiversity or Burning Biodiversity? Prescribed burn vs. wildfire impacts on plants, lizards, and mammals. Ecological Applications 21(8): 3238-3253.
Pellatt, M .G., and Z. Gedalof. (2014). Environmental change in Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) ecosystems: the evolution of an eco-cultural landscape. Biodiversity and Conservation 23: 2053-2067.
Turner, N. (1999). “Time To Burn:” Traditional Use of Fire to Enhance Resource Production by Aboriginal Peoples in British Columbia. In Indians, fire and the land in the Pacific Northwest, edited by R. Boyd, pp.185-218. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press.
Weiser, A., and D. Lepofsky. (2009). Ancient land use and management of Ebey’s Prairie, Whidbey Island, Washington. Journal of Ethnobiology 29(2): 184-212.
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Future Ecologies is recorded on the unceded territories of the Musqueam (xwməθkwəy̓əm) Squamish (Skwxwú7mesh), and Tsleil- Waututh (Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh) Nations - otherwise known as Vancouver, British Columbia.