Nature 421, 913-919 (27 February 2003) | doi:10.1038/nature01437

Fire science for rainforests

Mark A. Cochrane1,2


Forest fires are growing in size and frequency across the tropics. Continually eroding fragmented forest edges, they are unintended ecological disturbances that transcend deforestation to degrade vast regions of standing forest, diminishing ecosystem services and the economic potential of these natural resources. Affecting the health of millions, net forest fire emissions may have released carbon equivalent to 41% of worldwide fossil fuel use in 1997–98. Episodically more severe during El Niño events, pan-tropical forest fires will increase as more damaged, less fire-resistant, forests cover the landscape. Here I discuss the current state of tropical fire science and make recommendations for advancement.

  1. Center for Global Change and Earth Observations, Michigan State University, 1405 S. Harrison Road, Room 101, East Lansing, Michigan 48823-5243, USA
  2. Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia (IMAZON), Caixa Postal 1015, Belém-PA, CEP 66017-000, Brazil

Correspondence to: Mark A. Cochrane1,2 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to the author (e-mail: Email: