Controlled fire use for hunting, gathering, smallholder agriculture and pastoralism shapes ecologies and enhances livelihoods worldwide. Yet, at global scale, we know little about how these practices influence human well-being, ecologies and wildfire risk. As a basis for global syntheses, we collated information from the literature about fire practices in 587 case study locations spanning the globe. Here, we assess the coverage and completeness of these data. Limited quantitative data, particularly, present a challenge for improved modelling of anthropogenic influences on fire regimes. We also analyse global trends in fire practices from these studies, finding evidence that subsistence-oriented fire practices have declined in recent decades, while market-oriented fire practices have increased. Implications of these changes can include reduced biodiversity in fire-dependent ecosystems, increased wildfire risk, reduced household income and loss of cultural identity. The case studies point to important drivers of changing fire practices, especially economic pressures and state governance.
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The full LIFE database and accompanying metadata are available on figshare at https://doi.org/10.17637/rh.c.5469993.
The R computer code supporting the analysis presented in this study and a file containing the subset of the LIFE database analysed using the code are available on figshare at https://doi.org/10.17637/rh.c.5469993.
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We thank J. Millington for advice on quantitative aspects of the LIFE database. Our research was funded by Leverhulme Trust grant no. RC-2018-023 (C.S., O.P. and J.M.).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Smith, C., Perkins, O. & Mistry, J. Global decline in subsistence-oriented and smallholder fire use. Nat Sustain 5, 542–551 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-022-00867-y